Mind your facial muscles when building thought leadership


We usually keep a straight face or we are told to keep a friendly face in presenting companies, organizations, political or professional views. We have learned somehow that a neutral face is more professional than an expressive one. Look at all the images on LinkedIn and in newspapers.

But when building thought leadership, you are constantly convincing people and your face is a very persuasive asset, because it is straight from the gut, what you see is what you get.

So I would challenge people with an expressive face to get aware of the power of it and use it conveying what they want to express. The face is the larger part of the 80% ‘body language’ that transmits the message. Nobody doubts a facial expression, as it is obviously hard to to fake it without people noticing.

I think this is quite easy to relate to for many now being on video calls a lot. That setting makes people use visual cues more than ever. And look for them too – they are all we have to focus on.


We see passion on faces, doubt, kindness, engagement etc. I have heard that my face says a lot.  Facial expressions are just so much quicker and more precise than words are and more international too.

So my conclusion, of having watched so many faces more intensely than normal the last few weeks, has been, that I will focus way more on people’s facial expressions in any messaging or mediatraining I’ll lead from now on.

So use it, and be aware. Let me close off with when facial expressions are actually tricky:

  • When politicians and public figures forget for a second that raising an eyebrow can the next big thing in the news or company gossip.
  • If you try to hide your true thinking in a conversation, and you have a face that is lightly wired to your thinking, you will have a tough time keeping your cards to yourself.
  • When there is inconsistency between content and facial expressions. When you hear a serious message or apology and see a grin, trust is out the door. I see that a lot with politicians actually.
  • When facial responses are too big to hide. Remember Fauci trying to hide his expression during an early Corona briefing in March?

So, stay aware and keep twinkling!


(And ‘the use of timing and silence’ too is underestimated. Have you seen Trudeau last week with his longest silence ever, making a clear statement without saying anything? That is advanced.)