For Power and Status, Dominance and Skill Trump Likability

You'd think we'd advanced culturally in selecting leaders, since the stone age. Not so much.

Finding the next Barack Obama or Warren Buffett might be as simple as looking at who attracts the most eyes in a crowd, a new University of British Columbia study finds.

For the study, which used eye-tracking technology, participants who observed groups of strangers were able to accurately predict who would emerge as leader of the group in 120 seconds or less.

According to the study -- to appear in the forthcoming Journal of Personality and Social Psychology -- two sets of behaviours will accurately predict future leadership and catch people's attention. The first is prestige -- the appearance of skill and competency. The second is dominance, which includes the ability to impose ideas on others through bullying and intimidation.

... the study finds that one's likeability -- long considered essential for modern leaders -- does not consistently predict the attainment of greater status. While participants preferred leaders with prestige, they were surprisingly likely to choose dominant leaders.

The findings might explain the ongoing prevalence of aggressive leaders in business and politics, such as Donald Trump...

According to the researchers, today's dominant behaviour has evolved from resource and power battles from our evolutionary past. Prestige's viability as means of attaining status, has increased with the rise of meritocracy in society. [emphasis mine]

As long as we pick leaders who bully and intimidate, we're unlikely to cooperate well enough globally to stop climate change before it's deadly. Is this our evolutionary dead end? Are we too ill adapted for planetary thinking to avoid the ultimate Darwin award?

Tags: bullying, intimidation, leadership, prestige

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Replies to This Discussion

As long as we pick leaders who bully and intimidate, we're unlikely to cooperate well enough globally to stop climate change before it's deadly. Is this our evolutionary dead end? Are we too ill adapted for planetary thinking to avoid the ultimate Darwin award?

I agree that as long as we pick bully leaders things will not change for the best.
At this point we appear ill adapted - yes.

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