People with above average intelligence are seen as better leaders by others, research finds.
The best IQ score for leading a group is 118.
That is 18 points higher than the average of 100 — making them smarter than around 80% of people.
Leaders who are around this much smarter than their followers are seen as the most effective.
However, being too intelligent is linked to worse leadership, the study also found.
It may be that highly intelligent leaders struggle to understand the challenges faced by less gifted workers.
They may also be worse at simplifying jobs and using straightforward language.
In other words, a leader who is too smart may be hard to understand.
The conclusions come from a study of 379 mid level managers working at seven multinationals.
They were rated by their peers, supervisors and subordinates, along with taking IQ and personality tests.
The results revealed that women were generally seen as better leaders, as were slightly older people.
However, the authors explain that these results hold only for mid-level managers:
“Our conclusions are limited too by the fact that the sample consisted of mid level leaders rather than company CEOs who might exhibit far more task-oriented than social-emotional leadership.
We would then expect CEOs to display much higher IQ peaks than those observed here, as well more Conscientiousness and less Agreeableness!
In partial support for this conjecture, recent research suggests that leaders in the top 1% of general intelligence are disproportionately represented among Fortune 500 CEOs.”
Another kink is that the effectiveness of a leader’s intelligence depends on the people they are leading.
More intelligent groups need even more intelligent leaders.
The authors write:
“…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.[…] Sheldon could still be a leader—if he can find a group of followers smart enough to appreciate his prose!”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Antonakis et al., 2017).