Your personality traits, your leadership abilities and your potential criminality can also be deduced from your facial appearance.
Psychologists have argued about this for some time but new evidence from Rollins College in Florida suggests it might be true.
Marc Fetscherin, a professor at the International Business School found a correlation between company profits and the shape of the Chief Executive’s face.
He said “Facial width to height ratio correlates with real world measures of aggressive and ambitious behaviour and is associated with a psychological sense of power. It is therefore possible that it could predict leadership performance“.
Similar results were found by researchers at Sussex University where they analysed the faces of FTSE100 Chief Executives.
The researchers there thought underpinning this was a high level of testosterone which is associated with aggression and pursuit of dominance and which also influences the growth of muscle and bone.
Research from Finland among military personnel suggests that this view of wide-faced men being leaders might not be universally applicable in different kinds of organisations however.
It’s also been known for centuries that tall, attractive people were more likely to be in leadership positions. For one thing good-looking people tend to be brighter and being well-nourished in times past probably meant you came from a privileged background – always a good starting point.
The idea that we can read people just by looking at them for 1/10th of a second has been around for a long time and was associated with physiognomy and eugenics which became disreputable.
Today however it is still relevant when it comes to career progression. Apart from the research on CEOs, which is based predominantly on men, the research on women suggests that you can be too good-looking to get an interview.
The song title, if you can call a repetitive one-liner a song, “Bitch better have my money” might give you a clue but you can find it on her YouTube channel with warnings about explicit content. The bitch by the way refers to the male accountant who has embezzled her money not his trophy wife who gets tortured.
Leaving aside the dubious question of whether or not it’s meant to illustrate payback by black women or their empowerment, this example of mean girl behaviour demonstrates what has been called the empathy deficit.
Research has shown that the present “it’s all about me” generation is more lacking in empathy than any previous one with a self-obsession which borders on narcissism. Research at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Studies found in 2010 that empathy in college students had declined by 40% over the previous thirty years, something I have posted about previously.
At the same time aggravated assault cases, especially among girls, have risen dramatically. It is a social problem that Barack Obama has called the empathy deficit which he believes is one of the most serious problems facing America.
Cognitive Linguist George Lakoff is quoted as saying “Empathy is the reason we have the principles of freedom and fairness“, important underpinnings for a just society. In fact some would argue the basis for humanity.
Rihanna has used social media to humiliate easy targets including sex slaves in Thailand. Given that she has been the victim of domestic abuse it also illustrates Rihanna’s lack of self-awareness as well as empathy and I suspect a general low level of emotional intelligence.
One of the directors of the video said “We wanted to keep it cool and funny. I wouldn’t say it was a feminist statement. There aren’t any political or moralistic ideas in there at all” .
You’ll find Psychopaths, Narcissists and now Machiavellian types, somewhere in an office near you, or maybe even running your business, according to Holly Andrews and Jan Francis-Smythe, writing in the May 2010 issue of Professional Manager.
In an earlier post on sociopaths and narcissists; “Leadership – do you have what it takes?” I drew attention to some US research on Narcissistic types by Shnure about their impact in organisations. Now Andrews and Francis-Smythe, at the University of Worcester, see these personality types as even more of a potential threat.
Describing these extreme personality types which make up the “dark side triad“: narcissists have an exaggerated sense of self-importance – “It’s all about me“; psychopaths are also ego-centric and lack empathy; Machiavellian types also manipulate others for their own purpose, shows there is some overlap but all essentially exploit others in some way.
Narcissists can be charming and even psychopaths have superficial charm which gets them into positions of power. So the authors set out some suggestions to help organisations cope with these extreme personality types starting at the recruitment stage.
They also point out that they are not making clinical diagnoses even though they are using some terms found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Psychiatric Disorders.
The article includes a list of references but if you are interested in this topic I recommend “Why CEOs fail: the 11 behaviours that can derail your climb to the top and how to manage them” by Dotlich, Cairo et al. This is based on research and the work of Robert Hogan who developed a psychometric questionnaire to measure these “dark side” factors and should be essential reading for all HR managers and would-be company directors.
Adrian Furnham’s closing keynote address at the 2010 ABP conference focused on CEO derailment. Apart from toxic personalities he suggested that there also needs to be a group of people happy to follow them and a supportive culture.
An idea echoed by Ali Kennedy in the weekend newspapers who said that politicians were essentially “sociopaths with good intentions” working in a “psychologically corrosive atmosphere”.
From a coach’s perspective these can be difficult clients to say the least. Lacking in key areas of emotional intelligence they can be charming but don’t like to be challenged.
Helping them to be more self-aware and understand others is a start but their goal is likely to be even better at what they do (exploiting others) which poses an ethical dilemma. (It is a bit like providing social skills training to psychopaths: counter-productive if it means they just get better at fooling people).
So how successful are psychopaths at work? Researchers in America trying to find psychopaths who were successful in life asked their colleagues in the American Psychological Association who specialised in Psychology and Law if they recognised any amongst their clients or acquaintances.
Hare’s definition of psychopaths is;”‘social predators who charm, manipulate and ruthlessly plow their way through life … completely lacking in conscience and feeling for others, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret.‘
They received replies from over a hundred people and asked them to describe these “psychopaths” and complete a diagnostic tool for that person (creating a remote profile). They concluded that there was evidence to suggest there were such people as “successful psychopaths” (not sure if unsuccessful psychopaths were just those in prison or who hadn’t been caught yet).
The key difference between successful and standard psychopaths seemed to be in conscientiousness as the individuals described by the survey respondents were the same as prototypical psychopaths in all regards except they lacked the irresponsibility, impulsivity and negligence and instead scored highly on competence, order, achievement striving and self-discipline.
For more information go to “Hunting Successful Psychopaths“.
Post first published on Sganda
Research shows that as many as 10% of leaders could have narcissistic or sociopathic tendencies lurking behind a charming veneer. They are self-obsessed, leave a trail of casualties in their wake, and like Typhoid Mary are seemingly unaffected by their actions.
Organizational psychologist Kathy Schnure‘s research, presented at the 25th annual conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and reported in Management Issues, compared ratings of leadership potential for those who have high levels of narcissism to those who show low-to-average levels on the ‘narcissism scale‘.
She found those displaying strong narcissistic tendencies – things like exploitation/entitlement, leadership/authority, superiority/arrogance, and self-absorption/self admiration – had a significantly higher rating of potential leadership abilities than those with low-to-average scores.
“Those results would indicate the vision, confidence and pride in their own accomplishments could presumably translate into effective leadership in an organization or team,” Schnure said.
On the other hand, while narcissists do gain leadership roles, often based on their charisma and ability to persuade others to accept their point of view, some of the underlying traits, or “dark sides” will eventually surface, preventing any “good” leadership,” she added.
Timothy Judge, an organizational psychologist at the University of Florida, says a prime example of this “dark side” is an overblown sense of self-worth.
“Narcissists are intensely competitive, self-centered, exploitive and exhibitionistic. They tend to surround themselves with supplicants they see as inferior. When they are challenged or perceive competition, they often derogate and undermine anyone, even those closest to them, they perceive as threats (and unfortunately, they are vigilant in scanning for threats)“.
Schnure said leaders who are charismatic are not necessarily narcissists. “Charismatic leaders are not exploitive; they do not trample others to get what they want. Rather they display empathy toward employees” she added.
And what about leaders who are described as “charismatic”, for example Obama or the late Steve Jobs at Apple? Rob Goffee, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School and co-author of “Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?”, quoted in an article in The Times “It’s not all about being charismatic“, in 2009, thinks that strong leaders are good at developing disciples, but not successors.
“The people that make leaders charismatic are their followers. Barack Obama, for example, is clearly charismatic, but he’s also enigmatic. You can’t pin him down and so he allows us to project our dreams and hopes on to him.”
So just what does it take to be a leader? According to the Work Foundation there are 5 key skills:
- Seeing the bigger picture
- Understanding that talk is work
- Giving time and space to others
- Going through performance
- Putting “we” before “me”
Source: The Guardian article “Follow Your Leader?” 16/01/2010
And based on good practice and wide experience I also offer the following quick read: 10 ways to be a leader
First posted on SGANDA
Bar room jokes aside there are several interesting studies on the impact that size has on the way we perceive people and the way they behave.
They wanted to know whether or not your workspace would have an effect on your honesty.
What they found was that the bigger and larger the space and seating, which encouraged expansive gestures, the more likely it was that people would pocket overpayments, cheat on a test, and break the rules in a driving simulator.
In the first test they deliberately overpaid people for participating in the test and found that 78% of those with the bigger chairs kept it compared with 38% of people working in cramped spaces.
They also observed illegally parked cars in New York and found that when a driver’s seat increased by 1 standard deviation from the mean the probability that a car would be double parked increased from 51% to 71%.
The researchers say that when we have more space we can adopt more expansive postures and these often project high power whereas people working in constrictive spaces where they have to keep their limbs close to their bodies project low power.
The findings were not influenced by the height of the person nor by how corrupt the person might have been before the experiment as they were randomly assigned. The posture was the only variable.
This is interesting as I would have thought that people working in constricted or uncomfortable environments might be likely to cheat just to get back at their employer – a kind of organisational justice.
But we also know that power corrupts.
Yapp and his colleagues admit there might be cultural differences e.g. Asian norms of modesty and humility are inconsistent with the power posturing.
The research replicates that done at Columbia University (see below) on the size of desks (and illegal parking in New York).
Main source: “Big chairs create big cheats” HBR November 2013
Researchers at the Robert H Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland measured the signatures of 650 CEOs on 10 years’ worth of annual reports from almost 400 top 500 companies.
Large signatures, which have been linked to narcissistic personality traits such as dominance and an outsize ego, were positively associated with overspending, lower return on assets, but higher CEO pay relative to other industry peers.
The companies of these CEOs spend more on capital goods and acquisitions but had worse sales and sales growth over several years. They also had fewer patents suggesting a lack of innovation.
This is probably because narcissistic leaders dominate discussions, ignore criticism and belittle other employees.
The assumption about big signatures and narcissism is based on research by Richard Zweigenhaft which showed that people with higher self-esteem and more dominant personalities had large signatures.
It’s also the case that the CEO population is more narcissistic than the general population as well as having other dark triad characteristics.
Source: HBR May 2013
Researchers at Columbia Business School think sprawling across an over-size desk makes people feel more self-confident and more likely to behave dishonestly to further their careers.
The researchers manipulated the size of workspaces and found that people were more dishonest on tests when their environment allowed them to stretch out.
In another study they found that drivers given bigger car seats were more likely to be involved in “hit and run” incidents when incentivised to go faster in a driving simulation.
They also checked 126 cars on New York City streets, half of which were parked illegally. They found that drivers with large car seats were more likely to be breaking the law.
Research conducted for Brother Europe, when it was promoting its new A3 printer range across Europe, seems to prove that.
Professor Richard Wiseman, a leading human behaviour psychologist and author of; “:59 seconds. Think a little Change a lot”, carried out the research and he found that in “Dragons’ Den-style” pitch scenarios, businesses using A3 marketing materials appeared ‘significantly bigger, more successful and professional’ than those using standard A4 prints.
Moving from size to weight, in a paper published by researchers at MIT, Harvard and Yale universities; “Incidental haptic sensations influence social judgements and decisions” it appears that our sense of touch (the haptic impressions) also influences our thoughts.
They asked people to scrutinise a job candidate by looking at a resume (CV) placed on either heavy or light clipboards. The people using heavy clipboards viewed the candidate as possessing a more serious interest in the job and as more likely to succeed than those holding a light clipboard. They conclude that; “First impressions are liable to be influenced by one’s tactile environment”.
They say that understanding how the tactile environment influences perception could be relevant in; “almost any situation where you are trying to present information about yourself or attempting to influence people“.
My colleague and I have always advised candidates to use heavy-duty paper for their CVs and covering letters rather than 70/80 gm supermarket special photocopy paper. This was based on creating a good impression (because first impressions count) but now it seems it’s not just how good it looks but how heavy.
As the researchers say; “physical experiences are mentally tied to metaphors …. when you activate something physically it starts up the metaphor related to that experience in people’s heads” eg heavy = solid, reliable, serious, and so on.”
And next time someone puts a clipboard into my hands ….
These posts appeared separately on SGANDA previously
It’s been suggested by accountants PwC and the London Business School that we shouldn’t scold ‘bad boy bankers’ but treat them like babies and give them the equivalent of a cuddle (Sunday Times today).
The study says threats of punishment for bad behaviour are counter-productive when trying to improve ethical standards. Instead praising good performance and good behaviour is much more effective.
The research also says that competition is damaging and bankers are twice as likely to behave unethically when they feel anxious about competing with colleagues. Then they are more likely to cut corners and make mistakes. Or just cheat perhaps?
The research among 2,500 bankers, insurance companies and wealth management firms which suggests that the key to changing behaviour and improving ethical standards is praise rather than retribution is just wrong-headed in my view.
Some of these ‘bad boy bankers’ at the top of companies are sociopaths and narcissists and praising them will only feed their belief that they are always right.
But you might expect people from financial services to say that (even if one of the PwC team is said to be a behavioural science specialist). Given that banks are reported to have paid out over $200 billion dollars in fines since 2008 but no banker has been convicted of fraud or theft I wonder what cloud these researchers are sitting on.
The report says regulators and financial services leaders should focus on the positive outcomes of good performance – and I’d like to see a definition of that – instead of the negative behaviours they want to stamp out. But where is the evidence that it will work? Is it just the bankers etc being surveyed saying “be nice to us and we’ll behave better‘? Given the outlandish financial rewards financial services seems to offer do you think they are motivated by anything other than money?
After the fiascos of recent years most people would be happy to see bankers and similar financial sector workers taken down a peg or two, not least in respect of their ridiculous bonus levels. The bottom line is that we don’t trust them to behave honourably.
I’ve posted elsewhere about people, particularly leaders, who are narcissistic but they are not all suffering from a clinically defined Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
Although the incidence of those who are suffering from NPD in the UK general population is thought to be less than 1%, with between 2 and 16% amongst psychiatric patients, it’s been estimated that in the USA, UK and Australia narcissists and psychopaths may make up as much as 10% of the leadership population. The proportion amongst young people in their 20s in the USA may be even as high as 25% and whatever the true figures narcissism is believed to be on the increase.
At a clinical level narcissistic personality disorder is a mental illness defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual DSM-IV-TR 301.81 as follows: A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
Requires excessive admiration
Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
It is one of a cluster of dramatic personality disorders which also includes anti-social (psychopathic) behaviours.
People are believed to develop this for a variety of reasons including:
An oversensitive temperament at birth
Severe emotional abuse as a child
Being praised for perceived exceptional looks or abilities by adults
Excessive admiration that is never balanced with realistic feedback – The Golden Boy syndrome
Excessive praise or criticism for behaviors in childhood
Overindulgence by parents – e.g. Little Princesses
Poor unreliable parenting
Valued and used by parents as a means to boost their own self-esteem – think of those children’s beauty pageants.
So if you want to know if you, or someone you know, suffers from NPD read the above checklist again and see how many of those descriptions apply.
First posted on EI4u
Since the recession CEOs have been leaving jobs more quickly than hitherto – albeit often with a generous payout. Think of Tesco or Thomas Cook, not to mention the banks. Sometimes you can’t help thinking people are being rewarded for failure.
Back in 2010 Ruth Sunderland wrote a well-referenced piece in The Observer: “Superheroes and supervillains – why the cult of the CEO blinds us to reality“.
She started by comparing the contrasting fortunes of the CEOs from BP and Tesco and suggests that businessmen are idolised out of all proportion and then become victims of a witch hunt when things go wrong (a bit like football managers?).
Some people argue that the “cult of the chief executive” requires bosses to be charismatic leaders rather than competent managers. Most modern CEOs don’t talk about making money but about “vision and values” and have a “mission statement” rather than a job description.
She quotes research that shows that fame and charisma, with a few exceptions, has little relationship to high company performance. In the past entrepreneurs like Rockefeller (founder of Standard Oil) or Victorian soap baron Lord Lever were larger than life but they were bringing something new to market.
With the exception of people like James Dyson, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, most CEOs are not entrepreneurs (and haven’t invested in the companies which begs the question of why they get paid so much when they are not risking their own money – but that’s a different post).
Perhaps in difficult times we look for inspiration, influenced by the celebrity TV programmes like The Apprentice in both the US and the UK. Some CEOs undoubtedly succumb to narcissistic behaviour, a topic I have touched on more than once.See: “Leadership – the dark side“.
One contributor suggested that many CEOs are driven to succeed by trauma in their childhood which may help them to super-achieve but not have the personality to cope with failure. (This is not true for everyone. See: “What doesn’t kill you, makes you”). Egotistical CEOs may feel the need to take more risks to maintain or enhance their profiles which can then lead to spectacular failures with nowhere to hide.
There are also cultural differences with companies from Anglo-American meritocratic societies tending to go for star performers compared with the emerging Asian businesses preferring a more team-based approach. NB When Marissa Mayer was appointed as CEO at Yahoo in 2012 (having previously worked at Google) she apparently didn’t undergo any formal recruitment and assessment process.
As Professor Froud from MBS said; ” … in a large organisation success or failure doesn’t hang on any one individual” but an anonymous FTSE100 CEO said; “Leadership is emotional. It is about winning hearts and minds to a common purpose. It’s not just about one person, but it starts with one person“.
This is an updated extract of a post from SGANDA in 2010
In an earlier post about Emotional Intelligence and marshmallows I referred to the findings of a Demos think-tank report which reported on an increase in social mobility between the end of WW2 and the 1970s followed by a period of stagnation up to 2000.
Amongst the three traits that were most important for children to improve their social lot was empathy – the ability to be sensitive to other people, to read their emotions and understand non-verbal communication.
This is one of the cornerstones of emotional intelligence. Unless you are a sociopath everyone is capable of being empathic. There is even some research evidence that we possess a mirror neurone which plays a part in empathy and learning by imitation.
It may also explain the phenomenon of postural echo where two people in rapport with each other may unconsciously synchronise their movements.
There is also other evidence that may be a genetic component to empathy. Researchers in the US have discovered that people who inherit a particular version of oxytocin receptor, the bonding hormone, score significantly higher on tests of empathy, and react less strongly to stressful stimuli.
They point out that people who score lower can still be caring and empathetic individuals, and people can learn to develop more empathy. For example, people who read well-written novels are able to put themselves in the shoes of the characters and that helps them to understand others’ perspectives.
And researchers at Strathclyde University found that children who are good at standing up to bullies, whether for themselves or others, are better at resolving problems without conflict, are more emotionally literate, and better at taking other people’s perspective. See “What doesn’t kill you, makes you”.
Students today, however, are 40% less empathetic than they were 20 or 30 years ago, according to a report in The Times. “Generation Me” is more narcissistic, self-centred and competitive and less concerned with other people’s feelings. People also see them as more confident and individualistic but less kind.
The decline has been more marked since 2000, attributed to violent video games, social networking sites, and an obsession with TV celebrities. Inflated expectations, competitiveness and hiding weaknesses leaves no time for empathy.
Researchers believe that technology has replaced human interaction and having “friends” online means that you don’t have to respond to their problems. At one point it seemed that emotional intelligence was at last being taken seriously in the last labour government.
In The Times at that time, an article about cabinet resignations said that Shaun Woodward and Tessa Jowell were given; “prominent communication roles to provide emotional intelligence and, according to aides, address Mr Brown’s communication weaknesses”. That those attempts failed is now history.
BTW If you want to check out how good you are reading NVC go to this BBC site
First posted on SGANDA in 2010