Saturday, December 10, 2011

Forget leadership assessment centers: Use the fat face test

All that time your organization spends on leadership assessment? Throw it out. New research indicates that CEOs with fat faces perform better, so just get out your measuring tape.

Okay, I'm oversimplifying. But this research by Wong and her colleagues is fascinating.

They looked at 55 photos of male CEOs and linked facial width to firm performance. Results? CEOs with higher "facial ratios" (face width relative to face height) led organizations that had "significantly greater firm financial performance."

Why facial width? Previous research has indicated this characteristic is related to aggression and sense of power. People who feel powerful tend to focus more on the big picture rather than little details, and tend to be better at staying on task.

Why men? The relationship between face ratio and behavior has been found to be important only in men. Something to do with testosterone.

But wait, don't throw out your work sample tests quite yet. The researchers also found that the relationship between facial ratio and firm performance was moderated by the style of the leadership team. The relationship was stronger in teams that were "cognitively simple" and saw things in black-or-white terms, apparently due to deference to authority. Not exactly something most organizations dream of. Presumably leadership teams with more nuanced views of the world rely on things beyond what shape their leader's head is.

Yes, I'm being tongue-in-cheek here. But if nothing else, this type of research reinforces the complex and important relationships between genetics, perceptions, and behavior.

No comments: