Thinkers50: Amy Cuddy

Few thinkers embody the new era of thinking better than Amy Cuddy.  She has a compelling personal story, but also has a powerful habit of tapping into the zeitgeist and accessing the latest research to shed light on how people behave in the real world.

Measures of success used to revolve around job titles and the status of employers. In the world of thinking, book sales and affiliation to a top b-school were key.  Amy Cuddy exemplifies how things have changed.

Her 2012 TED Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” has tens of millions of views and is the second-most-viewed TED Talk of all time.  She propelled the notion of “power poses” into the world’s consciousness.

To this Amy Cuddy can add more traditional sources of credibility. She is a Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist.  Her work looks at how nonverbal behavior and snap judgments influence people. Her book Presence is a bestseller.  In it she draws on her own powerful experiences – including suffering a traumatic brain injury in a car accident – to examine how we can achieve “presence,” the state in which we stop worrying about the impression we’re making on others and instead adjust the impression we’ve been making on ourselves.

Focusing on the power of nonverbal behavior, the delicate balance of trustworthiness and strength, and the ways in which people can affect their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, she teaches people how to become more present and influential in their professional and personal lives.

Cuddy argues that we don’t need to embark on a grand spiritual quest or complete an inner transformation to harness the power of presence. Instead, we need to nudge ourselves, moment by moment, by tweaking our body language, behavior, and mind-set in our day-to-day lives.

Amy Cuddy ( is also a classically trained (and still practicing) ballet dancer, which she claims informs her research on nonverbal communication, and a retired roller-skating waitress.