Approaching authority

Last week, the GIN group reviewed and discussed Power & Influence with Deborah Gruenfeld, Professor, Stanford GSB.  Gruenfeld makes several key points about the interplay between body language and the dynamics of relationships, interactions and outcomes and proposes actions you can take to be perceived as authoritative or approachable. Both women and men can use body language to act high to project and receive authority or act low to appear approachable. Effective leaders, especially female leaders, are comfortable moving between these states, depending on the situation and specific goal.

Our discussion whirled around differing expectations for appropriate behavior for women and men and a concern that all this ‘acting’ could lead us to behave counter to our authentic selves.  Dear readers, I challenge you to spend one day making notes about situations in which you naturally act high or low.  Send yourself a quick email or text following each encounter, you may be surprised at what you discover about yourself and your co-workers.

Key points

  • People decide how competent you are in less than 1 second.  More than half of this judgement is due to body language.
  • There is a body language of power: who is leading and who is following.
  • Body language can shift the dynamics of relationships, interactions and outcomes
  • Women can find success in knowing when and how to use different power styles
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wormsense is the alter-ego of Dr. Miriam B. Goodman, a sensory neurobiologist seeking to understand the sense of touch and to improve careers for women scientists.
Aside | This entry was posted in GIN meetings @ Stanford, Research you can use and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Approaching authority

  1. Carol Muller says:

    Thanks for this helpful discussion. I think the questions of “authenticity” and what feels like “acting” or “gaming” are valid… Rather than take results of research on body language as prescriptive, I think it may be more helpful to think about what other situations and motivations lead to one standing tall, being expansive, confident, etc. These can be effective tools of communicating your message – whether it’s results of research, advice, etc. A couple of thoughts here — it’s important to recognize that students in particular are in the process of becoming scientists; it’s natural not to feel wholly confident from the start as one is in the process of learning to become comfortable with that “identity.” Where advisors or other mentors can help along the way is in providing feedback that will lead to understanding if one is on the right track; that understanding feeds competence, which in turn feeds confidence. If you are confident in your work, then you should stand tall — you will communicate more effectively that way. Of course, if one has picked up habits that undercut effective communications through socialization in other environments, it may be worth re-examining those habits and trying to think differently about why one would project as a “wilting violet” uncertain of one’s findings, etc.

  2. Pingback: Tip your hand, develop your voice | Gender Issues in Neuroscience (GIN)

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