Why We Pick Bad Leaders, and How to Spot the Good Ones

Why We Pick Bad Leaders, and How to Spot the Good Ones

If you want to reach the top at work, it's better to be feared than liked, according to a new study. What's more, bullies are just as likely to achieve high social status as skilled, knowledgeable individuals, according to research carried out at the University of British Columbia (UBC), in Vancouver, Canada.

Why We Pick Bad Leaders, and How to Spot the Good Ones

The two-part study looked at how "dominance" (which the researchers defined as the use of force and intimidation to induce fear) and "prestige" (the sharing of expertise or know-how to gain respect) can be used to achieve social rank and influence.

According to lead author Joey Cheng, a PhD candidate in UBC's department of psychology, the traditional view among social psychologists is that to be a leader you must contribute to the group, make sacrifices and demonstrate expertise.

But, she says the reality is often very different. People often say their boss is mean or pushy, or not particularly skilled, but they have to do what their boss asks or there will be consequences.

Joey Cheng, University of British Columbia department of psychology "People's common experience doesn't match what researchers have assumed for centuries," she says.

"When you talk to people and try to get a sense of what motivates them to do things in the workplace, people often say their boss is mean or pushy, or not particularly skilled, but they have to do what their boss asks of them or there will be consequences.

"We wanted to see if who you listen and defer to could also be a result of 'dominance' -- how much you are afraid of the person, how much they're able to intimidate you by virtue of their ability to decide over your fate, for example whether you get fired or whether you get promoted or not."

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