Embodying your Power as a Leader with a Power Pose
Updated: May 25
As a leader do you tend to focus more on finding the “right” words and grapple with what you are going to say rather than what your body is doing and conveying? Would you like to present and communicate with more confidence as a leader?
In a blog post about improving workplace communication, I noted that effective communication skills are built on your attention to your non-verbal messages. Your nonverbal messages via your body language has the power to help you both internally and externally exude a greater level of self-assurance.
Social Psychologist, Amy Cuddy states that “it does not have to be this extensive inner transformation, you just need to nudge yourself moment by moment tweaking your body language, behavior and mind set in our day-to-day lives.”
Cuddy’s research has shown how this works. She notes that our physiology, the chemicals in our bodies, change depending on how we position our bodies. She discovered that our testosterone level and our cortisol levels shift dramatically depending on how we carry and hold our bodies.
Cuddy’s research further indicates that when we hold ourselves, either sitting or standing, in an open stance, standing or sitting tall, shoulders back, head held high in what she has coined the “Power Pose” for two minutes, your vigorous hormone testosterone increases and your stress hormone cortisol decreases.
In contrast, if you hold your body and shoulders in a hunched fashion, pull your body inward and make yourself appear small, those same hormones do the opposite. Your vigorous testosterone level decreases and your stress hormone cortisol increases.
Therefore, if you want to optimize your body position and your hormone levels to your advantage utilize the Power Pose. The Power Pose will increase your sense of power and confidence.
A former client of mine, Angela (not her real name), hired me for career coaching. Her motivation was driven by her desire to increase her level of confidence within her organization. She had shared with me that she felt marginalized and dismissed by the senior leaders in her company. Angela wanted to work on her communication skills.
When I met Angela for the first time, although I believe she was about 5’10”, she walked into the room and appeared to be 4’11”. Her entire body was caved in and shrunken, her handshake was weak and tentative, and she was wearing dark sunglasses, so I could not see her eyes. Her body expression exuded a diminished and small persona.
As part of our work together, Angela adapted the Power Pose idea to create a pose that felt powerful to her. She shared with me that prior to meeting with her senior managers she would close her office door, stand tall with her arms outstretched in a “V”, as though she had just crossed the finish line and won an Olympic gold medal. She held this victory stance for at least two minutes. Although it initially felt awkward, Angela was keen and determined and practiced her power pose routinely.
Angela reported that her interactions with her senior managers improved over time and she felt like she was being taken more seriously. She recognized the positive results in her interactions and reported that she felt more assertive in her messages.
I highly recommend that you watch Cuddy’s popular TedTalk and learn how to adjust your body throughout the day and develop your own Power Pose. Angela is an example of how using the Power Pose allowed her to feel more valued and confident with her team.
As leaders, it is sometimes the small areas in your body language that will have both an internal and external impact. The Power Pose, when used on a regular basis, can enhance your intended message to create greater influence. Incorporating a Power Pose as part of your daily routine will be more powerful than any other communication mode adjustment.