How to Become an “Alpha Dog”

Thanks to my stint in divinity school, I’m now the proud bimonthly recipient of Harvard Magazine, which had a great article on Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy’s research in the latest issue. Some takeaways for those of you interested in interpersonal relations, power, and managing first impressions:

  • Warmth and competence are the key variables in how we perceive others, accounting for 80% of our evaluation.
  • When people judge others’ character, it’s the negative that weighs more heavily with regard to warmth (one nasty act can permanently label you as a jerk), but it’s the positive that matters more with regard to competence (such as having scored well on the SATs). Says Cuddy, “You can purposely present yourself as warm…But we feel that competence can’t be faked.”
  • There are four “types” that emerge in the workplace – you admire the warm and competent, pity the warm and incompetent, envy the cold and competent, and have contempt for the cold and incompetent.
  • Want to become a powerful “alpha dog”? Just as self-help gurus advise you to smile into the mirror to improve your mood, it turns out that you really can improve your confidence and power levels (as measured by hormone changes) by choosing to sit, even for a few minutes, in “power” positions (open limbs, expansive posture), as opposed to submissive postures (closed limbs, crossed legs, hunkered down).

What are your personal strategies for becoming more powerful and adopting a “power mentality”?

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the National Park Service. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.