This week’s reading of Leadersmithing by Eve Poole  left me with a mixed review. I enjoyed the reading and the content of the book, but it seemed quite elementary. I guess that was the point – that leadership should be part of an apprenticeship, and something you learn on the job. However, as a part of a doctoral program, it seemed like an odd book for our reading list and I felt a bit disappointed in its usefulness for our program. I can see the value in helping young leaders through such a leadership inventory, and I wish I had read this book in my twenties.
Despite my disappointment in the level of content, I did find some helpful tips, especially in chapter 7 on Clubs.  Most of the Clubs were known concepts, but I have struggled to implement some of them due to psychological barriers. The three that I am wrestling with are Power, Posture, and Sumptuary Law.
In some ways, they feel prideful, counter to my faith, and disingenuous. However, they have given me pause, and caused me to consider if this is more of an issue with how I have framed it, rather with the behavior itself.
Power itself is not wrong – but it holds a negative connotation in my mind. With power comes a great responsibility of stewardship, and I have a fear of stewarding power poorly. Despite being in full time ministry, I live with power dynamics every day and it is frustrating to experience power plays, especially in ministry. People and organizations with money often hold power and are susceptible to using it in self-serving ways. However, power always exists and it can be used appropriately for the kingdom. Jesus himself had all the power in the world. At times he used it, displayed in miracles and wonders, and in the resurrection. Other times, he withheld, displayed most notably at his death.
The difficult in the reading was that I can consider situations in which there was a power imbalance, but it can feel counter to my faith to strategically increase my power. Verses like 1 Peter 5:6 ring in my ears “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (NIV).
Then there are other times, when I have a clear power disadvantage due to my gender, and that feels like an injustice that I should not accept, so the right thing to do would be to strategically increase my power. These situations require nuanced thinking, an inventory of my own heart, and wisdom.
Posture is a signal of our confidence, or as Poole describes it, “Our bodies have a signature already”.  I found this section of the book fascinating. I knew that one’s confidence level influences posture, but I did not know that the reverse can also be true: posture can influence one’s confidence. In her TED Talk “Your body language may shape who you are”, Amy Cuddy describes how one can actually influence their confidence through a posture adjustment. She explains how a winner’s posture (hands in the air in a “V” shape and slightly raised chin) raises testosterone, lowers cortisol, and is even displayed in individuals born blind.
I have been traveling this week, and read this while on a long layover at London-Heathrow. I wanted to test this out, but concerned that my British travel mates might find this awkward, I first began by sitting a bit taller, holding my chin slightly higher, and putting my hands on my hips. Feeling a little burst of confidence, I wanted to try out the full wonder woman pose and winner’s posture, so I snuck into a bathroom stall and gave it a try. The result? Success.
Pro tip: It helps to think about a situation in which you were triumphal, rather than a situation in which you feel defeated. I noticed the physical action of the triumphal stance boosted my confidence much more when pairing it with the thoughts of a triumphal memory.
The modern version of sumptuary law is the adage “dress to impress”. I have felt long felt conflicted about this one, with roots tracing back to high school. Dressing to impress others can feel shallow and disingenuous. I have rejected the notion that my worth and value come from others’ pleasure (or lack thereof) in my appearance. As a result, I try to avoid feeling the pressure to modify my appearance to impress others. However, whether I like it or not, the truth is that appearance does play a role in my ability to influence others.
My takeaway? Follow Poole’s advice but add my own twist: aim to get 9 points in a professional context by dressing and accessorizing in a way that builds my confidence, rather than in an attempt to earn favor.
In closing, I found the three Clubs thought provoking and worth consideration and I plan on passing this book on to some who are in the earlier stages of their leadership career.
 Poole, Eve, “Leadersmithing: Revealing the Trade Secrets of Leadership” (New York, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017)
 Ibid, 99-124.
 Ibid, 116
 Cuddy, Amy, “Your body language may shape who you are”, YouTube Video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc.
 Poole, 121.