How to Boost Testosterone and Reduce Cortisol Levels to Lead Better

Is Your Leadership Ability Determined By Your Testosterone and Cortisol Levels?

Ever notice when you’re putting in those 60-hour weeks at the office, your ability to rally the team seems pretty flat? Your meetings are less effective, and instead of working with your people and finding solutions, you’re barely leaving your office.

To put it bluntly, When you’re stressed and exhausted, you’re ZAPPED.

But it’s not just the exhaustion and stress that’s tanking your leadership abilities - your hormones are in havoc.

You may not realize it, but hormones affect every aspect of our lives. Our emotional and physical health is dictated by how these hormones interact with the cells in our bodies and our brain, and while they directly influence our behavior, our behavior can also affect our hormone levels. Crazy, right?

Testosterone and Leadership

This relationship was shown clearly in a 2016 study in which researchers discovered that executives with more leadership responsibility actually had higher levels of testosterone. Testosterone not only affects libido, it is also associated with aggression, risk-taking, confidence and energy.  

So, being a leader means having a lot of testosterone, right? Not necessarily. Too much testosterone is associated with a loss of empathy and more aggressive moods, but many of the qualities seen in leadership are more prevalent in men with higher testosterone levels.

Cortisol and Leadership

The second part of the study looked at how cortisol affects testosterone and leadership abilities. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” is what your adrenal glands produce when you’re stressed out or when your blood sugar crashes.

It’s what gives us our “fight or flight” response - this was great when our caveman ancestors were being chased by woolly mammoths or when our bodies needed a boost when food wasn’t plentiful. It’s less great when we’re just trying to get a spreadsheet done by 5:00. Ongoing stress leads to a consistent release of cortisol. Excess cortisol leads to poor sleep, poor memory, a weakened immune system, and in the long term, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

But back to leadership - this same study showed that as cortisol increased, leadership abilities decreased and testosterone was inhibited. Like everything else in our body, there needs to be a balance. Here’s a more detailed overview of how these scenarios translate into behaviors:

  • Low Testosterone/Low Cortisol – Lower confidence and strength, but very calm and relaxed - a “Go with the flow” type. However, with too little cortisol, they may not respond to stress in a constructive way.

  • High Testosterone/Low Cortisol – Confident and strong, this person is cool under pressure and manages stress effectively - This is the optimal balance for leadership.

  • Low Testosterone/High Cortisol – Lacking confidence and strength and also appears nervous and stressed out all the time.

  • High Testosterone/High Cortisol – Think of a pressure cooker. Yes, this person has the confidence and strength, but may also be overly aggressive when dealing with stress or always seems on the verge of an explosion.

So how do you find your sweet spot of balancing your hormones so you can be a leader at the office?

Diet and Exercise Done Right

Keeping your body fueled with clean, healthy foods will keep your blood sugar stable and prevent those crashes that lead to cortisol release. Avoid the processed foods, alcohol, high-sugar, and high-salt foods and focus on fueling your body right:

  • Healthy fats - coconut oil, olive oil, avocados

  • Snack on almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables

  • Whole grains

  • Healthy proteins - lean meats, quinoa, eggs, wild-caught fish

Also, exercise is one of the most effective methods of reducing cortisol and stress. Even a 20-minute walk after lunch is going to help you combat the cortisol and get your hormones in alignment.

Fill Your Sleep Tank

Running on five or six hours of sleep at night is going to lead to burnout FAST. Getting solid, decent sleep is key to reducing cortisol and also preventing it because a rested leader can handle stress better than someone who’s on his fourth cup of coffee by 10 AM.

  • Have a set time to go turn in each night (preferably eight hours before you have to get up)

  • Turn off electronics one hour before bed (the blue light keeps your brain awake)

  • Keep the room cool and completely dark

  • Avoid eating heavy foods a few hours before bed

Get Social

Being around “your people” whether it’s family, a night out with friends, or hanging out in the break room can lower your stress and bring your cortisol levels in line. No man is an island - it’s okay to talk about what’s stressing you out because someone may have the solution to what’s bothering you.

If you really want to end hormonal disruption and perform your best at work and in life, then let’s hop on a call to determine if you’re a right fit for our Elite Coaching Program for Male Executives.

This call isn’t for everyone, it’s specifically for the guy that’s looking to achieve peak performance, be a top leader, exude energy, and is ready to invest in state-of-the-art wellness solutions and leading edge support to have it all.

Click here and schedule a Free 15-minute Video Consultation, but time is limited so book soon.



Dr. James Leonette