Sarah Boyd


The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation

The Ideal Hormone Profile Of A Leader

When we think of great leaders, most of us think of qualities like: coping well under pressure, rising to a challenge, strong, caring, resilient. 

We’ve all met some great leaders that display these qualities and many of us are striving to embody them.

(Image credit @jshnaaa)

(Image credit @jshnaaa)

But a new research area is suggesting that the qualities we believe are the attributes of a great leader, may actually come down to something as basic and primal as the individual’s hormones.

The relatively new field of ‘social neuroendocrinology’ is the study of how hormones (such as testosterone & cortisol) guide social interactions. And in particular, what hormones may be associated with traits that we assume are personality.

Within this new research field, there has been evidence to suggest that there is an “ideal hormone profile” of great leaders. 

The research suggests that quality leadership behaviours such as:

  • showing persistence in the face of failure
  • ‘approach’ behaviours towards challenging situations
  • strong negotiation skills
  • risk taking
  • resilience
  • flexibility
  • staying cool under pressure

are all linked to this hormonal profile.

The ideal hormonal profile of a leader has been found to be high testosterone & low cortisol.

The high testosterone is linked to status, meaning one will often be perceived as a dominant leader. Too much testosterone though, is detrimental to leadership, undermining the empathetic accuracy that is important to building teams.

The low cortisol is linked to staying cool under pressure. Although if an individual only has low cortisol (& not the high testosterone), this is linked to being perceived as a poor leader (no status).

This leadership hormonal profile holds standard across both men and women. Even though as a baseline, women have 1/6 level of testosterone as men, in leadership situations there is no gender difference in hormones.

Before you stress out that you must not have the holy grail of hormone profile to be a great leader & your leadership career is over (maybe you have high cortisol = too stressed under pressure); the good news is that your hormones work in both cause & effect. 

This means that although your hormones determine strong leadership behaviour; by engaging in the positive leadership behaviour, these actions influence your hormones.

You can positively influence your hormonal profile. 


Below are some actions that research has found can help move your hormones into the ‘ideal leader profile’ of high testosterone & low cortisol:

1 Standing In A “Power” Posture

Standing tall, chest out, hands on hips. Like a super hero or ‘wonder woman’ stance.

2 Moderate Intensity Exercise For 30 Minutes

About 70% of maximum heart rate

3 Eating A Low GI Diet

This diet limits spikes in blood sugar

4 Some Level Of Perceived Competition

But not too much that is overwhelming.

5 Mindfulness Training

Learning to be present in the current moment

6 Reframing The Meaning Of The Situation You Are In

Looking at it from different perspectives (see previous post).

7 Increased Emotional Intelligence

Some research has found that the higher a person’s overall emotional intelligence, the lower their cortisol level is likely to be during a stressful task (Mikolajczak, Roy, Luminet, Fillee, & de Timary, 2007).

All of these behaviours, although basic, seem to be the building blocks upon which amazing leaders build their daily lives. 

So go out & do some exercise, eat your greens, stand like wonder woman, and stay in the present moment; & your hormones will kick in to empower you to be the incredible leader you were destined to be. 

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The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation.