New Study on Identifying Leadership Potential

Posted on 18th December 2017

A recent study at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands has been looking into the verbal and non-verbal indicators of leadership.

The study involved filming the interactions of groups of people who had not met before. Each team member was rated as a leader or a follower. Soundless clips of the videos were then shown to volunteers. As the volunteers watched the clips, measurements were taken of where they looked and for how long. The result of the study showed that the volunteers focused their attention more on those individuals in the group that had been identified as the potential leaders.

As a result of an analysis of the non-verbal behaviour of the members of the groups, the researchers concluded that the potential leaders displayed more active gestures, such as body or hand movements, while showing less passive facial expressions, such as yawning or staring blankly. Interestingly, whether or not a group member smiled, made no difference to the results.

It appears that this focus on non-verbal behaviours to identify a group leader is not something that we consciously do but may have its origins in the evolutionary benefits of being able to quickly identify a leader in a group.

Of course, other factors such as vocal cues and charismatic behaviour will also have a bearing on identifying leadership potential. The researchers point out that, talking a lot and actively engaging in a discussion is important as an initial indicator however, ultimately it is more about what you say than how much.
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