Choosing a leader – dominance over skills

Scientists at the University of British Columbia have been able to use eye tracking technology to establish two factors needed to predict who might emerge as a leader of a group. Hence, identifying the next Barack Obama or Warren Buffet might be relatively easy to achieve using these scientific findings.

According to the study – to appear in the forthcoming Journal of Personality and Social Psychology – two sets of factors 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 research suggest that there are really two ways to top the social ladder and gain leadership – impressing people with your skills or powering your way through old-fashioned dominance.

By measuring the level of influence and visual attention given to an individual, people could easily spot the dominant and prestigious leaders within a group. In fact, the study showed that people tend to choose dominant individuals as their leaders rather than highly skilled individuals. Surprisingly, one’s likeability – long considered essential for modern leaders – does not consistently predict the attainment of greater status.

These findings might explain the ongoing prevalence of aggressive leaders in business and politics, such as Donald Trump or Toronto mayor Rob Ford. According to the researchers, today’s dominant behavior has evolved from resource and power battles from our evolutionary past. Prestige’s viability as a means of attaining status has increased with the rise of meritocracy in society.

About Olayinka Oduwole

I am a DPhil student in Engineering Science with research interests in Nanotechnology, Microfluidics, Electromagnetism and Communication Technologies.