Two years ago, a Harvard study on executives revealed a crucial secret to city success: men with high testosterone levels are more likely to have a high-power role but only if their stress levels are low. Scientists found that cortisol, the alarm signal which zooms around your body when you miss a deadline, get stuck in traffic or receive an angry text from your other half, can reduce leadership potential.
That complicated email, outstanding project brief and incomplete balance sheet could hijack your tiger’s instinct to see off business rivals unless effective relaxation strategies are in place. Of course, it is not a huge surprise that dismal office conditions can leave men underperforming in the bedroom; just ask any zookeeper about the difficulties of getting animals in captivity to breed successfully.
We've known since 2012 that higher-level executives have lower levels of cortisol than their lower-level counterparts, but this latest study found that testosterone-rich and cortisol-poor blokes are actually likely to have more subordinates under their command at work. It seems that tackling stress could be the key to climbing the career ladder.
Have you noticed a difficulty in making commercial decisions under pressure? Joint research from the Universities of Texas at Austin and Oregon backed up the link between high levels of stress hormones and blocking testosterone’s influence on competitiveness and dominance. It found that men with high testosterone showed a desire to succeed in a rematch after losing a one-on-one competition, whereas low-testosterone males didn't want to play again and experienced a significant drop in the sex hormone when defeated.
The frequency of stressful events is going to have a big impact on your body too. Depending on how sharp your delegation skills are, crisis moments are going to crop up more or less frequently during the day. Can you trust your management teams to handle missed orders, HR headaches and PR panics? If department leaders' problem-solving skills leave much to be desired, then your stress levels are going to peak more often during the workday. Rats exposed to chronic stress had high levels of RFamide-related peptides, or RFRPs, which battered testosterone levels and sexual behaviour, according to a 2009 study led by Elizabeth Kirby at UC Berkeley.
The research also found that rodents experiencing stressful events for several hours were able to calm down, with testosterone-busting hormones decreasing by the next day. If that's not a good reason to start booking yourself more days off then I don't know what is.
If you want to reach your career goals, then book that weekend break, enjoy a massage and don't forget to make time for friends and family in the name of depleting cortisol levels through stress reduction.