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Why highly intelligent people make the worst leaders
Here’s the ideal IQ for a leader who manages the average team of humans.
What qualities define a good leader? Is it vision, the ability to understand and negotiate with people, drive, an expectation of excellence, or a stunningly brilliant intellect? A new study finds that the last one may actually be a hindrance. Those who are exceedingly intelligent, while still some of the top producers, don’t necessarily make the best leaders, it finds.
Researchers at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, led by John Antonakis, set out to test the assumption that the brightest people make the best leaders. Their results were published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. This team was building on the work of UC psychology professor Dean Keith Simonton. He theorized that there’s a sweet spot where peak performance is reached, when the intelligence of the leader correlates with that of the followers.
We expect leaders to be smarter than us, but not too smart, according to Prof. Simonton. While the average IQ is 100-110, the optimal IQ for someone managing a team of average folks, would be 120-125, no more than 1.2 standard deviations above the mean. This relationship is called curvilinear, represented when graphed as an inverted U.
At a certain point, high intelligence hurts leadership if it isn’t balanced by other traits. Credit: Getty Images.
In the Swiss study, 379 middle managers from companies within 30 different, mostly European countries, participated. They were followed over six years and their leadership styles evaluated periodically. Researchers gave participants the Wonderlic Personnel Test, which assesses both personality and IQ. Their scores were spread across the spectrum. Antonakis and colleagues matched these with the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire, which evaluates a manager’s leadership style and how effective it is.
Subordinates and peers at each participant's job filled these out. The managers were evaluated by seven to eight people each. Personality and intelligence were the key indicators on how effective a leader was. A higher IQ meant a better relationship, up until the leader’s IQ reached above 120. Those with higher intelligence, beyond 128, were found to be less effective.
Bucking another stereotype, researchers uncovered that women tended to express more effective leadership styles. A little over 26% of the participants were women. Older managers scored higher too, but to a lesser extent. What these results show is that balance is important. Intelligence does benefit leadership, Antonakis says, but only if it’s balanced with other parts of one’s personality, like agreeableness and charisma.
Mostly, it comes down to good people skills. Conscientiousness surprisingly didn’t play too much into effective leadership. Of course, whether one is an effective leader or not depends on the IQ of the group. So there isn’t exactly a perfect level of intelligence for a leader to have.
Why do the smartest leaders often fail to reach subordinates? In Simonton’s work, he and colleagues believe that they often put forth more sophisticated plans than others, meaning team members might fail to understand all the intricacies, and thus fail to execute them well. Another problem: complex communication styles might fail to influence others. Also, if a manager comes off as too intellectual, it sets him or her apart. In other words, it makes subordinates feel the leader is not one of them. In the words of the study's authors:
To conclude, Sheldon Cooper, the genius physicist from “The Big Bang Theory” TV series is often portrayed as being detached and distant from normal folk, particularly because of his use of complex language and arguments. However... Sheldon could still be a leader—if he can find a group of followers smart enough to appreciate his prose!
There are shortcomings to this model. It originally only looked at simulations and perceptions rather than actual work environments and performance. This latest study was the first to really put Simonton’s theory to the test.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is really important for leaders to have. To learn more about that, click here:
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated.
Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.
Apple sold its first iPod in 2001, and six years later it introduced the iPhone, which ushered in a new era of personal technology.