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Are you displaying your dominance?

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

While being "in charge" and "in control" are often overrated as marks of a good leader, it's still true that being a manager involves having higher status and more power than your employees. The way we behave dictates how well we use that power to our advantage.

Stanford business professor Lara Tiedens, who studies dominance behavior and social hierarchies in organizations, points to some common cues that tell us who's in charge:

The appearance of height and size. Big and tall people can do this naturally, but smaller people display dominance with an open posture, strong gestures and other ways of taking up more space.

Assertive nonverbal behavior such as making firm eye contact, speaking loudly, low­ering the pitch of their voice and interrupting. Dominance also leads to people standing or leaning in close to others.

Tiedens notes that while men are more often conditioned to behave like this, women can and do also use dominance displays to their advantage. Dominance conveys confidence, she says—a dominant leader "is seen as being more of the deci­sion-maker and go-to person in their organi­zation. We think of these people as deserv­ing even more status--not only do they have it, but they should have more."

Is this bad? Tiedens, who acknowledges she gets accused of "being a little evil" for focusing on dominance, says that we engage in this behavior all the time, no matter how open-minded and humble we may want to be. "The pernicious effects occur because we don't talk about it," she says.

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