Power Posing: Release Your Inner Alpha

Power Posing

Those Nike ads were right.  Sometimes, we need to forget perfect and just participate.   We need to put mind over body and — Just do it!  And if that doesn’t work?  We need to put body over mind and — Just fake it!

According to social psychologist and Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy and her co-researchers, our body language sends messages not just to others, but to ourselves.  It shapes who we are because it actually changes our body chemistry.  Specifically, we affect our own hormones – testosterone (the dominance hormone) and cortisol (the stress hormone) through our own nonverbal communication.

Power Posing
Amy Cuddy, Power Posing. (Photo: Thatcher Cook for PopTech)

So if you want to feel confident and powerful, assume a confident and powerful posture.

simply holding one's body in expansive, "high-power" poses for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone (the hormone linked to power and dominance in the animal and human worlds) and lower levels of cortisol (the "stress" hormone that can, over time, cause impaired immune functioning, hypertension, and memory loss).

The result? In addition to causing the desired hormonal shift, the power poses led to increased feelings of power and a greater tolerance for risk.

Harvard Business School Working Knowledge Power Posing: Fake It Until You Make It

Power players tend to be more assertive, more confident, more optimistic and think more abstractly. They have high testosterone but low cortisol which makes them less stress reactive.  They also are more willing to take risks.

While not everyone wants or needs to take on high powered alpha roles, we all face times  —  going on a job interview, having to give a big speech, or make an important decision, when we wish we could boost our inner alpha or reduce our stress.  And as it turns out we may be better off assuming a power pose rather than giving ourselves a pep talk before our big moment.

"At this point, we can say pretty comfortably that the initial effects seem to last 15 or 30 minutes. I think the more interesting question is whether or how it becomes self-reinforcing.

You pose powerfully; you perform better; you feel more confident and powerful; then you perform even better. At the same time, people respond to that confidence and performance boost and give you feedback that further elevates your feelings of confidence and power."

Amy Cuddy Leadership Advice: Strike a Pose:

But Ms. Cuddy has a further suggestion — we shouldn’t just fake it so our inner alpha believes it or until we make it .  Once we get the job we want or convince our bosses that we are worth the raise we want, we need to keep faking it until we become it — best selling author, award winning artist, committee chair, go-to person, leader of your pack!

So check your posture.  A two minute power pose may be your cost free, ace in the hole.

Ms. Cuddy’s excellent TED Talks video:



Read Ms. Cuddy’s research — Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance




  1. A very wise woman told me years ago to buy a power suit. I did and it was red. Though it no longer fits 😦 There was nothing like striking a pose in that red skirt. Thank you for reminding me. Now days my power suit is blue!


    1. Hahaha!

      Suzie – I can so see you striking a pose in your red skirt. I had a navy business suit when I graduated from college that was probably the closest I ever got to having a power suit. It doesn’t fit me now either.


    1. Yes! Particularly that stress hormone was reduced by more open upright posturing. We instinctively seem to do the opposite and huddle ourselves when we feel overwhelmed, vulnerable or powerless.


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