Stanford University management professor Bob Sutton says it’s an illusion that the boss is truly in control, and suggests seven “tricks” for enhancing that perception. And yes, that’s Russian President Vladimir Putin, shirtless, on a horse.
1. Talk more than others, but not the whole time. At least in Western countries, people who talk first and most are seen as leaders—the blabbermouth theory. But if you talk the whole time, people will find you a bully, a bore, or both.
2. Interrupt occasionally—and don’t let others interrupt you too much. You can augment your power by winning “interruption wars” at key junctures in meetings.
3. Cross your arms when you talk. When people make this gesture, they persist longer and generate more solutions while working on difficult tasks. By crossing your arms, you send yourself a message to crank up the grit and confidence—but crossing them too often and intensely can make you look inaccessible and unfriendly.
4. Use positive self-talk. People who make encouraging statements to themselves enjoy higher self-esteem and performance. The most effective such talk focuses on encouraging yourself (“you’ve done this before”) and applying specific strategies (“lean hard, now”).
5. Try a flash of anger occasionally. The strategic use of outbursts, snarling looks, and hand gestures such as pointing and jabbing generates an aura of competence in small doses with proper precautions. But spewing out constant venom undermines your authority and earns you a well-deserved reputation as a jerk.
6. If you aren’t sure whether to sit or to stand, stand. This point is especially crucial for a new boss. Standing up signals that you are in charge and encourages others to accept your authority. Whether you sit or stand, place yourself at the head of the table.
7. Surrender some power or status, but make sure everyone knows that you did so freely. One of the most effective ways to show that you are both powerful and benevolent is to take a status symbol for yourself and give it to others. A CEO I work with had a huge corner office, but when he became aware of a space crunch, he moved to a much smaller space so that four employees could share the big one.