If you want to be seen as a leader, go hit the gym! New research suggests that when it comes to judging a person’s leadership potential, a muscular physique might just be a more important attribute than wisdom and intelligence.
“Our findings are consistent with a lot of real examples of strong men in positions of power,” said one of the researchers Cameron Anderson, professor of management at University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in the US.
For example, take the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger whose past popularity was a result of his physical prowess as a ‘Mr Universe’ bodybuilder. In the 2003’s historic recall election, the physically imposing Schwarzenegger easily defeated California Governor Gray Davis — who is arguably weaker looking than ‘The Terminator’ actor.
For the study — to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology — the researchers conducted a series of experiments. The experiments first measured the strength of various men using a handheld, hydraulic Dynamometer — which measures chest and arm strength in kilograms or pounds. After being rated on strength, each man was photographed from the knees up in a white tank shirt to reveal his shoulder, chest and arm muscles.
In one experiment, groups of men and women — about 50-50 — were shown photographs of the different men on a computer screen. Before the participants saw the photos, they were told that they would be rating people who had been recently hired by a new consulting firm. The participants were asked questions such as, “Do you think this person would be a good leader?” and “How effective is this person in dealing with others in a group?”
“The physically strong men in the pictures were given higher status because they are perceived as leaders,” Anderson noted.
In another experiment, to further test their results, the researchers used Photoshop to switch the bodies of the strong and weak subjects. For example, a weak man’s head was depicted on a strong man’s body, and vice versa.
The result showed that participants rated the weak men with stronger, superimposed bodies higher in status and leadership qualities. In the final experiment, the participants’ responses indicated that men of taller stature were perceived to have more strength.
This phenomenon apparently applies to men only. There was little effect on participants’ perception of leadership skills when they were shown physically strong vs. weak women, the researchers said.