People Who Speak More Are More Likely To Be Considered Leaders

6 September, 2021

If you want to be considered a leader, start talking. It doesn’t even particularly matter what you say, according to a study testing the appropriately-named “babble hypothesis”. US scientists found that quantity, rather than quality, of speaking determined who was perceived as a leader in small groups. This article on the World Economic Forum’s website reports on research published in The Leadership Quarterly.

While this effect also appears to happen regardless of the intelligence or personality traits of members within the group, gender had a clear impact on leadership attribution. In the study men received, on average, an extra vote, simply because of their gender. The effect was shown to be more extreme for the individual with the most votes. “This bias does not appear to be strongly associated with any observable indicators of participation quality,” said lead author Neil G MacLaren.

The study also showed that the gender gap, which the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 estimates will take another 267.6 years to close, is still an issue in the workplace.

“Although the information about leadership attributions we gather in the lab can seem somewhat contrived, it’s important to remember that many of us provide attributions of others regularly in the form of performance evaluations at work or in hiring decisions.”

Neil G MacLaren

So, if you’re aspiring to a leadership position, perhaps you should talk more? On the other hand, if you’re assessing your team or recruiting new employees you might want to be aware of that potential bias in your thinking. How does your organisation, from recruitment process to performance review, ensure it’s actively countering bias and developing the leadership potential of the right people, rather than just the most verbose?

World Economic Forum, 9 August, 2021. Read the full article here.

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