The Face of Leadership: How CEOs’ Facial Appearance Predicts Business Success

Yet a word of caution is also warranted. The face may serve as a proxy for talent but it is scarcely its replacement. Accuracy in judging behavior and psychological traits from faces appears to be specific to certain domains. Whereas some judgments are accurate (e.g., personality is reliably judged from facial cues; Ambady, Hallahan, & Rosenthal, 1995; Berry, 1990), others are surprisingly inaccurate (e.g., people rely on their gut feelings about others’ honesty but can be notoriously inaccurate, as in the case of Bernie Madoff’s investors; see Rule, Krendl, Ivcevic, & Ambady, 2013). Impressive as the predictive validity of facial appearance can be, many—possibly most—domains of life do not manifest themselves in perceptible facial cues. Leadership among top executives, however, does appear to be one exception to this. The face may convey useful information about an individual’s leadership potential and appear to outperform more rational or objective measures of success. Whether this is because the face is a sort of “Trojan Horse” of hidden traits and talents, or because particular facial features entrain other people to follow an individual, there is something subtle in the face that communicates a leader’s success.



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