Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Who Shall Lead?

'First movers' in coordination situations are most likely to become leaders, and this prediction is borne out in the literature. A recent meta-analysis indicated that of the Big Five personality dimensions, extraversion is the most highly related to leadership emergence and effectiveness ratings.

Primary studies report correlations between leadership and such narrower band dimensions as assertiveness, boldness, initiative, need for achievement, proactivity, and risk taking, which all increase the propensity to move first.

In the cognitive domain, people who quickly recognize that situations require coordination are more likely to become leaders. This might explain the relationship between general intelligence and leadership and why intelligence is a universally desired characteristic of leaders. We expect that as coordination tasks become more complex, cognitive factors will become a better predictor of leadership.

Our analysis also suggests that an ability to estimate the payoffs for followers is necessary for leaders to be influential. This would explain the empirical links between leadership and social intelligence, political skill, empathy, perspective taking, and nonverbal sensitivity.

“The leader must be able to know what followers want, when they want it, and what prevents them from getting what they want”. This also suggests that the more complex the group, the more socially astute the leader needs to be. Another implication of our analysis is that good leaders should be perceived as both competent and benevolent because followers want leaders who can acquire resources and then are willing to share them.

Leaders’ willingness to share (information, for example) is reflected in such traits as trustworthiness, fairness, generosity, and self-sacrifice— universally desirable leader attributes.

Given the risks associated with following, people prefer leaders who can benefit the group.


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