Asymmetric people make the most effective leaders

Groundbreaking research led by Dr Carl Senior has found that asymmetrical people make the most effective leaders.

18 October 2011

Groundbreaking research from Aston University has found that asymmetrical people make the most effective leaders.

Physical symmetry is traditionally seen as the most positive attribute, with symmetrical people often perceived as being more attractive, cleverer and popular. But new research has found that leaders who are physically asymmetrical are better at motivating teams and getting the best results out of them.

A team of academics, led by Dr Carl Senior, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology from the School of Life & Health Sciences at Aston University, conducted two studies: 

1.    80 volunteers completed a psychometric questionnaire to measure their leadership qualities. Their measurements were also taken in order to assess their physical symmetry. This included measuring finger length, wrist width and ear length. The study found a correlation between asymmetrical bodies and transformational leadership. This is the more effective, caring style of leadership.

2.    42 first year students in the Aston Business School were set the task of marketing and selling a car. Each group of students had to self-elect a leader and each leader was measured across a range of data points to pinpoint positive work ratings. These included attitude to their team’s well-being. The tutor also gave blind judgements of the leader’s performance. A strong correlation was found between the asymmetry of the leaders and whether they were effective leaders. But what was most surprising was that the results of those groups led by asymmetrical leaders were 20% higher.

This is the first time morphology has been correlated with leadership.

Commenting on his research, Dr Carl Senior said:

“We tend to think of symmetry as being the more positive characteristic. But we were surprised when our research revealed that it is asymmetrical people who make the more effective leaders. They motivate their teams to achieve results while paying particular attention to their wellbeing.

“Symmetrical people are often seen as stronger, more dominant individuals. This may mean that those who are asymmetrical have to work harder to achieve results and it is this compensatory socialisation which makes them more effective leaders.” 

The research has been published in the Harvard Business Review today (18 October 2011).

For more details and/or interview requests, please contact Louise Russell, Communications Officer on 0121 204 4637 or email l.a.russell1@aston.ac.uk.

Notes to Editors

How the measurements were taken:  A manual calliper was used to measure the right and left sides of seven body features to the nearest 0.05mm  (i.e., little finger length, ring finger length, middle finger length, index finger length, thumb length, wrist width and ear length). For those individuals whose ears were not easily accessible (for example, due to religious headdress) the measurement was not included in their composite FA score (n=2). Participants were asked whether they had suffered any injury on the measured feature. If this was the case the measurement was also not included in the FA calculations (n=1). In accordance with the accepted practice in studies of FA, each body feature was measured twice and an average summed from these to provide a right (R) and left (L) side measurement. These average measurements were then used to calculate an individual’s composite FA score with the formula: FA = (R-L)/(R+L)*2

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