All of us have times where we feel powerless and defeated. Mostly because, well, there are times where we are powerless and defeated! The problem is that there are those moments where that lack of confidence can have big consequences…when giving an important presentation or when trying to lead the troops through a difficult change for example. The bad news is that we often don’t get to choose when our doubts will rise above our confidence. The good news, at least according to recent research from Harvard, is that there is a way to boost that confidence when it’s needed the most. Ready? When you’re feeling powerless you should…………
Sit like you’re powerful. Yep, that’s what the data show. According to Dr. Amy Cuddy and her research team, as little as two minutes sitting in a “high power” pose stimulates higher levels of testosterone (the hormone linked to dominance and power) and lower levels of cortisol (the hormone linked to stress and fear). As Cuddy said in the recent TED Global 2012 conference, “Our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves. Our bodies change our minds.”
What exactly is the difference between a high power pose and a low power pose? There are many variations so think of this: when we are unsure of ourselves we tend to wrap ourselves up and get smaller. We hunch over, or put our hands in our laps, cross our arms perhaps or pull everything towards us. When we are confident and feeling in control of our surroundings we take charge. We use a lot of space, leaning back with our hands behind our heads, putting our feet up, or standing and leaning into the space.
This is not some passing, minor finding. Researchers for a while have found that leaders tend to have lower cortisol levels than followers yet the assumption has been that a natural tendency to have less of the stress inducing hormone led to the characteristics of leadership. Cuddy’s research indicates that it may simply be that leaders act like leaders and in showing that they are masters of their space, actually induce those lower hormonal levels. If that’s true, you should be able to do the same. Try it and let me know about your results.
I’m going to try to get Dr. Cuddy to be a guest on the All Things Leadership Podcast sometime soon. If you haven’t checked out the podcast, go to ATLPodcast.com or search for it in the iTunes podcast library and subscribe. There are some interesting interviews and more being added every couple of weeks.