Business Leader

(P1) You probably have some ideas about how your company’s CEO got to where he did.

(P2) Maybe he’s a CHARISMATIC EXTROVERT, able to charm his way through any important meeting. Or maybe he’s incredibly CONSCIENTIOUS, the kind of person who will stay up all night working on a project until it’s complete.

(P3) But here’s one factor you may not have considered: Perhaps he’s got a combination of high testosterone and low cortisol.

(P4) That’s the IMPLICATION of a new study, which suggested that men’s HORMONE levels could predict how far up the corporate HIERARCHY they climb. (The study focused exclusively on men because women’s testosterone levels tend to be lower and don’t vary as much.)

(P5) Specifically, high levels of the stress hormone cortisol seem to CURB the influence of testosterone, which is linked to AGGRESSIVE and competitive behavior. In other words, stress may have a negative influence on leadership potential.

(P6) For the study, researchers looked at 78 male executives ENROLLED in an executive education program at Harvard. Hormone levels were measured through SALIVA samples.

(P7) Researchers also asked participants to report how many people they managed, and how many people worked below them in their organization.

(P8) Results showed that men with high testosterone and low cortisol levels had the greatest number of SUBORDINATES. On the other hand, men with high testosterone and high cortisol levels had fewer subordinates. (Men with low levels of testosterone and cortisol also had relatively few subordinates.)

(P9) It’s worth noting that the SAMPLE SIZE here was pretty small. But these findings PAVE THE WAY FOR future research on the idea that stress can make it harder for the leadership qualities associated with high levels of testosterone to shine through.

(P10) “Stress reduction has leadership implication,” lead study author Gary Sherman, Ph.D., told Forbes. “It can UNLEASH leadership potential in employees who might otherwise not show it.”

(P11) One interesting implication of the research is that stress is a potential cause of failure to advance in an organization — not just a result.

(P12) “The literature has, BY AND LARGE, treated stress as a CONSEQUENCE of low status,” the study authors write. “The current FINDINGS suggest that stress may also have an additional role as a GATEKEEPER of the various psychological and physiological processes that determine status”.

(P13) Given these findings, it makes sense for ASPIRING leaders to make stress management a PRIORITY.

(P14) Take a tip from a super-successful leader like Steve Jobs, who MEDITATED regularly, or Jack Dorsey, who sticks to a relatively consistent schedule. If these guys KEPT THEIR STRESS IN CHECK while working their way to the top, then you can, too.

WORDS: 438



If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Do societies benefit or suffer when most leaders are the same type of super-confident men?
  3. It is not clear if the study considered why the leader types experienced lower stress. Is it possible they might be so confident and NARCISSISTIC that they don’t worry about the consequences of their actions?
  4. Is the hierarchy in your company very RIGID, or is it more flexible?
  5. How do you manage the stress in your life?


What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Sample size
  • Pave the way for
  • By and large
  • Keep in check

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