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Abstract

Nonverbal immediacy is a core element of a leader’s ability to lead followers. Nevertheless, there are no empirical studies regarding a link between a leader’s hand gestures and followers’ perceptions of immediacy (attraction to someone) or nonimmediacy (distancing). Guided by Mehrabian’s theory of nonverbal behavior, this study included one independent variable segmented into seven levels (positive hand gestures defined as community hand, humility hands, and steepling hands; three defensive gestures, defined as hands in pocket, arms crossed over chest, and hands behind back; and neutral/no hand gestures) to test for immediacy or nonimmediacy. In this experimental study, participants (n = 300; male = 164; female = 143) were shown one of seven pictures of a leader. Four hypotheses were tested for main and interactional effects and all were supported by the results. Immediate communication received strong support, meaning immediacy on the part of a leader is likely to lead to increased emotional connection to achieve desirable outcomes. This study advances theory from previous research that specific hand gestures are more effective than others at creating immediacy between leaders and followers.

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