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Body Language of Leaders: Harvey Specter


harvey specter

Leader or not? Harvey Specter from Suits may not be a leader in the traditional sense, but it’s very clear he is in charge when he is in the room. How does he do that? With excellent nonverbal communication of course!

Suits

Part of our nonverbal communication is the way that we dress. What you wear immediately affects how you are perceived by those around you. Harvey Specter only wears the best suits, which instantly raises his charisma and makes you, the viewer, take him much more seriously than if he dressed simply in jeans and a sweater. Surely even then, Harvey would still have quite the impact, but the suit definitely works in his favor. For even more on the power of Harvey’s suits, check out this fun article from the Gentleman’s Gazette.

harvey specter

How can you use this?

Do you “dress for the occasion”? If not, then you definitely should. The moment you dress in a more formal way, people will react differently to you. Even you will react differently to you! Let’s say you’re a freelancer who works from home. Normally, you may wear a comfortable sweater and jeans (or maybe even pajamas!) Now change that for a day: wear formal clothes like you would if you were meeting a client and work in those. You’ll notice that you will feel more professional and definitely act like it!

Standing When Making a Point

A very interesting nonverbal move that you repeatedly see Harvey do is stand up when he is making a point. By doing this, he positions himself higher than the person he is facing. This dates back to our cavemen days: if something or someone is taller or bigger than you, it’s harder to defend yourself against them. Harvey, who is already quite a tall man, makes ideal use of this by towering over his opponents when he is trying to drive a point home.

How can you use this?

Although it can be somewhat overbearing at times, you can definitely use this move when you’re trying to win an argument over someone else or when you’re making an important point. Don’t use this move when talking to clients, because you may come across as too intimidating or aggressive. It’s usually best not to make the ones you’re serving feel uneasy, so be picky when using this powerful nonverbal move!

Strong Eye Contact

When Harvey makes eye contact with others, he looks at their eyes and forehead. Sometimes, it looks like he’s not even looking at them at all, as though he’s not interested in them. In body language terms, this is called power gazing. By doing this, you let other people know that you mean business. For Harvey, this is his go-to way of looking at other people. When talking to his friends, like Mike and Donna, you can see him drop his gaze a little into what’s known as social gazing or a more casual form of eye contact.

How can you use this?

By only looking at someone’s forehead and eyes, you are almost nonverbally dominating them purely by the way you make eye contact. If you’re in a difficult meeting or a negotiation, you can use this way of making eye contact to show that you mean business. Be careful when using this type of eye contact with people who are higher in rank than you as it may antagonize them.

Special Note

Something that you will see Harvey do quite often is make the expression for contempt.

harvey specter

This might be partly because of what seems to be a small scar on Gabriel Macht’s face, but it’s more likely because this is the way the great Harvey Specter feels about other people: superior. With this expression, he indicates that he thinks he’s better than you.

Make sure you don’t find yourself making this expression and don’t mistake it for a smile when you see it!

What leader to analyze next?

Do you have a (fictional) leader that you’d like to see a blog post about? Please leave a comment down below to let us know what leader’s body language you’d like to see!

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This guest post is by one of our body language experts in training: Michiel Andreae from The Netherlands. He loves to teach people how to improve their communication skills through body language and to coach people to make better use of their nonverbal skills. Find him on Twitter.

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a published author and behavioral investigator. She is a Huffington Post columnist and her courses and research has been featured on CNN, Forbes, Business Week and the Wall Street Journal. As a published Penguin author, Vanessa regularly speaks and appears in the media to talk about her research. She is a sought after consultant and speaker.


20 Comments


  1. Khemeia Consulting

    Awesome post Michiel! Love the character Harvey Specter.

    Please could you do a blog about Coach Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights.

  2. Shana Compton

    Special Agent Sealy Booth from Bones, or even Dr. Brennan from Bones would be super interesting!

  3. Rania Mait

    very nice post , and i think it works for men and women .. if you could post something to less the stress during the conversations ..
    thanx Vanessa

  4. Jonathan Woo

    Scary, my friends and I were actually just talking about Suits earlier and saying that Harvey Specter is a guy that I would love to have on my team. He’s the type of guy that not only communicates that he is a reliable and assertive man, but also a man of integrity. That being said, I would hate to have him as an enemy. The way he walks, talks, and lifts his head makes me feel like that he will win the fight (other than the fact that it is a TV show haha).

    I feel like another character like somewhat similar to Harvey Specter in terms of confidence and good body language is probably Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones. For someone so little, he does command a lot of respect (besides being rich of course). Maybe you should work on him next =)

  5. Dan-el Zavala

    yeah!!.. nice post, do you think that the dog whisperer Cesar Millan could be consider as a leader? I read that some people think that he has a strong body language and I went to see him, and definetly he´s so carismatic. I will be so pleased if you can talk about him 🙂

    1. Danielle McRae

      Hey there! We will add him to our list to look into. Thank you for the suggestion!

      Danielle | Science of People Team

  6. Special K

    Great post! I’d like to see a woman How she can draw the same attention, impact in a room at work, etc. I don’t watch much tv but Olivia from Scandal caught my attention.

    1. Danielle McRae

      Yes, Special K! Olivia Pope is one of my all-time favorite TV characters. She is on our list to cover soon!

      Danielle | Science of People Team

  7. Ali

    Hey loved this post….very well written. How about something on Alan Shore from Boston Legal or Patrick Jane from The Mentalist 🙂

  8. Trym Vindenes Berger

    Interesting article.

    Especially to see that actor make use of the body language techniques that’s taught on this site, like the power gaze.

    As for leader to analyse next, Bobby Axelrod from Billions, would be an interesting example. Especially because the does the complete opposite when it comes to dressing for the occasion.

  9. Term

    Awesome Post!! I am debating between Annalise Keating from How to get away with murder. Jessica Pearson form suits, and Rowan Pope from Scandal.

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