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Who Tends to Lead in Groups

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The second variable to consider is within-group heterogeneity, or differences between individuals within the group. Variation in areas such as skill in valued areas, personality, experience, and even physical stature contribute to the eventual formation of decision-making hierarchies where some individuals wield more influence than others when making decisions (44). Even differences in reputation, agreeability and social network size between individuals were found to be important variables when considering time to reach consensus.

Individuals who are less agreeable and more persuasive were found to be more likely to emerge as leaders. In research conducted by Gavrilet, when assigning values to individual influence on reaching group consensus three factors were considered: persuasiveness, agreeability and reputation. Researchers were able to approximate value utilizing the equation (B/A)*P where B, A and P are persuasiveness, agreeability and reputation respectively. Manipulating the values within this function, an individual who is twice as persuasive, stubborn and reputable than another member will have eight times the influence on the final decision than a control member would have.

In fact, contemporary leaders today do tend to score lower than average on the agreeable scale when taking personality metric exams. Within-group heterogeneity can significantly delay the time it takes to reach democratic consensus and inevitably leads to the development of “informal” leaders. Stubborn individuals as we mentioned earlier tend to be highly persuasive, and have an increased ability to steer the group in which direction to go. When time is an issue, these individuals embody the phenomenon of “informal” leadership and their opinions can affect the rest of the group adversely if the individual decides to promote selfish ideals. Instances like these are what call for the right types of leaders to step up, take charge, and consider the options of the group. Those with a higher perceived social reputation amongst the group tend to heavily influence the final decision and are seen as more persuasive by other members, regardless of their motivations. What’s the same between leadership today and those in small scale societies is that the person’s potential to becoming a leader is entirely dependent on the ability of the individual to attract followers.

As social learning increased amongst humans, we realized that through mimicry we were able to learn new skills and tendencies faster from those we followed closely. Depending on what we learned, we created a “model-ranking system” where followers could talk to one another and decide collectively who was the best to learn from. This led to competition amongst other leaders as followers look for the best or most prestigious models to follow. Establishing a group of followers, these leaders became able to confer benefits to their followers and more easily carry out complex actions and/or plan. Similar to a positive feedback cycle, when these plans are carried out others see and it encourages more people to follow him or her. Research from Henrich et. al present an idea that is a result of this system, as a result of the competition it created, a socio-genetic funnel was formed to select for individuals who most demonstrate valued qualities such as generosity, prosociality and emotional intelligence. How we choose our leaders Besides attributes such as persuasiveness, agreeability and reputation discussed earlier, physical stature, facial appearance and intelligence all appear to be key factors when identifying who holds the most influence within a group of people.

In research from the University of St. Andrews, researchers found that leadership ability can be inferred from facial images alone and concluded that attractive facial dimensions played a huge role regarding whether or not you will be seen as a leader. These split second facial judgments have been found to predict voting in the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Japan and the United States. The relationship between facial appearances and leadership ability stands for both men and women and research indicates that these facial characteristics don’t develop over time rather they remained consistent throughout time. With this data, there is a strong influence regarding how you look and whether or not you will be seen as a leader. One physical characteristic related to leadership selection is body height. Taller individuals are paid 15% more than their colleagues and are more likely to receive a promotion despite working at the same company for a similar amount of time.

In presidential elections, taller candidates are more likely to gain a higher percentage of the popular vote and this phenomenon has held true from 1924 to 1992. Even outside of politics, height predicts career success and income. To others, being taller is correlated with higher perceived dominance, health, and intelligence in men and higher perceived intelligence in women. This association between height and perceived leadership ability indicates the following, the taller you are, the more likely you are to be respected by your colleagues. This theme is common both throughout human history and between several primate species. Past research has also revealed that there is a subtle face ratio that appears to have a substantial impact on perceived leadership ability. Facial width to height ratios have been studied in the past as a measure of attractiveness and have proven to be another driving factor that plays into leadership selection. Those with a higher height to width facial ratios have been observed in higher frequency amongst corporate executives and have been found to predict achievement drive in presidents. Facial width-to-height ratios translate to dominance and previous studies have also found that perceived body height could be gleaned from just facial images alone.

In fact, studies have proven that the relationship between facial elongation and perceived height was greater than the relationship between actual height and perceived height. Especially in circumstances where the rest of the body is occluded, it appears that when trying to choose leaders, facial structure and appearance appear to play a variant role leadership role occupancy. In situations where a leader needs to be selected, those with a higher facial width to height ratios may be preferred, but this is not the only quality taken into account. Another perceptual trait that has been linked with leadership selection is facial maturity. Facial maturity has been found to correlate with perceived leadership ability and also seems to be related to perceived competence and power. In studies where scientists asked participants to rank facial profiles on perceived ability to lead, “baby-faced” profiles scored lower than more mature facial profiles. Those with “baby faces” appear less competent and knowledgeable than their more mature looking peers and this has been found to influence leadership perception. Similarly, more masculine faces are found to be more preferred for times of intergroup conflict whereas more feminine faces are preferred in times where intragroup stability must be maintained.

Men also prefer to be leaders when groups face external threat such as war while women tend to gravitate towards more democratic leadership scenarios. This dichotomy adds depth to this area of research, indicating that different faces are preferred for different facets of leadership. Although facial ratios, height, and maturity are acknowledged as contributing factors, these are not the sole determinants of leadership. Characteristics such as agreeability, dominance, facial structure, while they all have a significant degree of variance a majority of these factors that affect leadership ability could be coded within us geneticall. Genes are located upstream from the personality traits they encode so it’s natural that the presence or absence of certain genes plays a role in leadership selection and emergence.

Although specific genes have not been identified, there are many reasons why scientists believe that genetics influence leadership emergence and occupancy. Genetics related to leadership Genes influence chemical reactions in the brain. Research of complex neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia, autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder has shown that presence of a neurological disorder can be tied back to wide variety of genetic risk factors. Genetics play an invisible role in the maintenance of our mind and body, they affect the development of individual personality attributes and thereby directly affect our likelihood of inhabiting a leadership position.

For example, extraversion or gregariousness is a quality that is frequently cited as a common leadership attribute. It is made up of equal parts prosociality, an outgoing nature and innate self-confidence. The characteristic “extraversion,” has been shown to be correlated to the long alleles of the DRD4 exon 3 repeat genotype. Logically, it follows that those with these longer alleles are more extraverted and outgoing, thus more likely to be recognized and find themselves in positions of leadership. Genes have also been found to have an effect in terms of what types of environment people gravitate towards – or avoid. In clinical research, researchers were able to deduce that there is a genetic influence related to how long you stay in school. Likewise, alcoholism has also been proven to have a genetic association.

Research has also found that there are varying levels of fear and anxiety that can be traced back to genetics, included but not limited to acrophobia, agoraphobia and arachnophobia. These individual differences and the genes they are associated with can help shed light on why some individuals gravitate towards certain careers and adopt certain hobbies/ tendencies. Publications from a principal researcher in the field of leadership Remus Ilies confirms that leadership emergence is in part due to genetic factors. Borrowing elements from Stogdill’s “trait based” theory of leadership, his paper posits that leadership emergence is highly correlated to factors such as the Big Five personality traits, as well as conscientiousness and self-efficacy. Although appearance and intelligence were found to play a role, these alone were not major motivators of leadership emergence. When accounting for superficial traits such as height and physical attractiveness, finding that these traits also mediated leadership emergence amongst the general population . With mounting research surrounding the subject, who and what sets leaders apart from others appears to be mediated by a variety of factors with no clear priority.

Historically, there has been a firm foundation regarding the relationship between the constructs of individual differences and leadership emergence. Amongst some of the key characteristics governing leadership emergence today include extraversion and risk taking. Other attributes such as creativity and intelligence are also central to leadership emergence, but due a lack of statistical significance and failures to replicate past studies, extraversion and stress management have been found to be more reliable connections between genetics and personality. A heritable personality trait like extraversion makes up several notable attributes including sociability, gregariousness and exhibitionism – all advantageous in any leadership role. Likewise, healthy responses to stress as well as stress tolerance has also been indicated as a consistent trait of leaders. We are constantly faced with challenges in our day to day lives but our responses and mechanisms for dealing with these stresses are what define us. Within this study, I will be focusing on genes that I have researched to be strongly correlated to traits frequently cited as related to leadership.

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