Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Who's the best leader: the saint or the scrooge?

28.09.2011
New study explains why nice people are overlooked as strong leaders
Generosity is typically regarded as a virtue. But among leaders, it can be seen as a sign of weakness, according to a new study.

The research finds that generosity — in the sense of contributing to the public good — influences a person's status on two critical dimensions: prestige and dominance.

"People with high prestige are often regarded as saints, possessing a self-sacrificial quality and strong moral standards," said Robert Livingston, assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. "However, while these individuals are willing to give their resources to the group, they are not perceived as tough leaders."

The researchers define dominance as an imposed "alpha status," whereas prestige is freely-conferred admiration from others. Al Capone, for example, can be viewed as a high-dominance individual, whereas Mother Theresa exudes high prestige.

The study argues that people with high prestige are perceived as desirable leaders in noncompetitive contexts, but that they are viewed as submissive in comparison to individuals who strive to maximize their personal gains. In times of competition, individuals who are less altruistic are seen as dominant and more appealing as leaders.

"Our findings show that people want respectable and admired group members to lead them at times of peace, but when 'the going gets tough,' they want a dominant, power-seeking individual to lead the group," said Nir Halevy, lead author and acting assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Livingston and Halevy co-authored the research with Taya Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business and Kellogg PhD student Eileen Chou. Their study highlights the need to distinguish between different types of status in groups as well as how intergroup conflict shapes followers' leadership preferences.

"There are numerous academic findings on status, but we sought to investigate the antecedents and consequences of two distinct forms of status, depending on the context," said Livingston.

To test their theory, the researchers conducted three experiments where participants were given the option to keep an initial endowment (10 game chips worth a total of $20) for themselves or contribute it to a group pool. Contributions either benefitted the contributor's fellow group members, or simultaneously benefitted the contributor's group members and harmed the members of another group.

The first two experiments found that selfishness and displays of 'out-group hate' — which unnecessarily deprived the members of another group — boosted reflected dominance but decreased respect and admiration from others. In contrast, displays of in-group love ± generously sharing resources with fellow group members — increased respect and admiration but decreased dominance.

The third experiment found that "universalism"— that is, sharing one's resources with both in-group members and outsiders — had the most dire net outcomes on a person's status. The researchers found that universal generosity decreased perceptions of both prestige and dominance compared those who shared resources only with members of their group.

In short, being generous can boost one's prestige, if one is selectively generous to one's own group; this increases respect and admiration from others. However, being selfish or belligerent (unnecessarily harming members of another group) decreases respect and admiration from others but it increases perceptions of one's dominance.

The intriguing consequence is that dominant individuals were more likely than prestigious individuals to be elected as a representative for the group in a mock competition with another group. Thus, being too nice can have negative consequences for leadership.

"Being too generous often comes at a personal cost to one's position of strength or power," Livingston explained.

"This research begins to explore when 'nice guys' finish first and when they finish last, depending on the group context," Halevy said. "'Nice guys' don't make it to the top when their group needs a dominant leader to lead them at a time of conflict."

The study "Status Conferral in Intergroup Social Dilemmas: Behavioral Antecedents and Consequences of Prestige and Dominance" will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Aaron Mays | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.northwestern.edu

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry

23.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The end of pneumonia? New vaccine offers hope

23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>