Monday, October 18, 2010

Leadership Secret # 10:
High Confidence vs. Low Confidence Stance

This photo provides and excellent example contrast of projecting high confidence vs. low confidence. On the left is the former U.S. President Bill Clinton and on the right is current Attorney General of California, Jerry Brown.  Although with less than three weeks before the election, he currently leads Meg Whitman in the poles by six percentage points in California's Gubernatorial race, and he also held this same office twice in the past (from 1975 - 83, before California's term limits were set), Mr. Brown displays a posture of low confidence. It is a cardinal rule never to clasp your hands low and in front and in a public setting, yet so many politicians do it. This is known as a "fig leaf" position. It is a sign of low confidence and vulnerability. Moreover, rather than just a loose clasping of the hands, he is gripping three of his fingers quite firmly - signifying an even greater level of anxiety. This posture pulls ones shoulders forward and down - not the best way to look when you're trying to follow Arnold Schwarzenegger in office. Hunched shoulders simply do not demonstrate confidence - no way, no how. In addition, Jerry's mouth is foreshortened and down-turned - giving pensive and tentative signals. Jerry Brown looks tense and he shouldn't be.

Now look at Mr. Clinton. The former U.S. President hands are clasped BEHIND his back. If you're ever feeling intimidated or nervous, simply standing like this will increase your confidence.This posture, among others, temporarily increases testosterone (yes, even in women) and decreases cortisol (a stress-related hormone). Any politician will tell you Bill projects confidence better than almost anyone - and he sets the example for Mr. Brown here. Look at Mr. Clinton's mouth - although not smiling, it is thoughtful and pondering - certainly not lacking in confidence. 

As Maya Angelou once said, people don't remember so much what you said, but they always remember how you made them feel.