Leadership presence, which includes the ability to project power, is critical in any kind of interaction, whether you’re speaking with one person or to a crowd of 1000. Failing to exhibit the kind of power that demonstrates self-confidence may leave your audience uncertain about your skill, but overdoing a display of power may come across as arrogance, which is a turnoff for almost everyone.
Amy Cuddy’s presented her research on “power poses,” which demonstrates that adopting or even just visualizing a confident pose delivers self-assurance in one of the most viewed TED talks of all time. One of the fascinating aspects of that research is that taking a “power pose” can affect levels of testosterone and cortisol. In other words, this is not just a “fake it til you make it” shortcut: taking a powerful stand causes physiological effects that can change how you present yourself and thus how others perceive you.
Stanford professor Deborah Gruenfeld, who spent years studying the psychology of power, discovered that simply understanding the research is not enough to reap its rewards. She eventually teamed up with a theatre instructor to teach a Stanford Business School class called Acting With Power. Watch her micro lecture Playing High, Playing Low and Playing It Straight on YouTube, and you’ll pick up tips on how to project authority and approachability. It’s a worthy investment of time if you’ve ever felt a lack of confidence, if you’ve ever received feedback that you come across as tentative, or if you’ve ever worried that you’re coming on too strong.
What does this have to do with business development? Simple: no one wants to hire or refer business to someone who may not be able to handle it. While leadership presence isn’t necessarily indicative of actual professional skill, it’s the stand-in that others will evaluate (consciously or not) as they decide whether you’re trustworthy.
Take a few minutes to check out these resources, and if you’re uncertain about how you come across (especially in situations that are uncomfortable to you), ask a trusted colleague. Your presence will have a significant impact on your career, so don’t delay.