How do good leaders get their start?

You’re at work, in one of those groups where a few people do all of the work and everyone gets credit. Maybe it’s your first day, or week, or month. By the end of the first group session, either you or one of your fellow employees will be leading this group.

If it’s you, you’re grateful. Maybe you don’t even think about it much. if it’s someone else, you think, “how did this insufferable jackass end up leading me?

Psyblog reports that there are two reasons; that guy was probably the first to talk and made the most suggestions. This comes from research conducted by Anderson and Kilduff (2009) published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. They found that dominant individuals in a group were perceived as more competent, and that dominant group members offered more suggestions and made greater contributions, even if the contributions were not as high-quality as other contributions.

Basically, the person who talks first, and most, is seen as more dominant and thus, the leader.

Now, this doesn’t say anything about maintaining leadership roles. If the person is dominant and moronic and only goes with his own suggestions, his bosses will see through him when he decides to sink half the company’s money into ham-flavored condoms or somesuch. (At least, I hope they will, but the current political and economic climate may say otherwise.) Similarly, if the leader has bad ideas but is good at recognizing good ones in the group, he may last longer.

So if you want to be a leader, you know what to do. If you want to remain a leader, tread cautiously.

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