There have been various studies down the years linking height and success in life, whether professionally or personally. Indeed, so strong is the connection between power and stature, that a Cornell study from a few years ago found that being powerful made people feel several inches taller.
Height or width?
A recent study suggests that the boost may not be confined just to height, with a muscular physique believed to be key to judging our leadership potential.
The study, conducted by a team from UC Berkeley, found a strong connection between physical strength and leadership ability.
Participants were tested for strength by using a device called a Dynamometer, which measures chest and arm strength. Having been tested, each man was then photographed from the knees up in a t-shirt that revealed his shoulder, chest and arm muscles.
The men were then rated for things such as their status, how much they admired them and the esteem in which they were held. They were quizzed on whether they would make a good leader and how effective they were at working with others.
“The physically strong men in the pictures were given higher status because they are perceived as leaders,” the authors say. “Our findings are consistent with a lot of real examples of strong men in positions of power.”
Strength vs attractiveness
The next step was to ensure that strength wasn’t being mistaken for attractiveness, so each participant was also asked to rate the photos for their attractiveness levels.
This hypothesis was further examined by Photoshopping the bodies of strong and weak candidates, so for instance, a weak man’s head was placed onto a strong man’s body.
As a result of this switch, the weak man was rated as stronger in terms of both leadership and status.
Height was then discounted from the equation by placing the men in a lineup alongside others of variable heights. In this instance, taller men were believed to be stronger, with that strength then translated into higher leadership ability.
What’s more, the findings rejected the notion that strength and aggression were natural bedfellows, with respondents rating down those regarded as aggressive.
“Strong men who were perceived as being likely to behave aggressively toward other group members were actually granted less status than their apparently gentler counterparts,” the authors say. “Together, the results suggest that the conferral of status upon formidable men, perhaps counter-intuitively, serves a fundamentally pro-social function — to enhance the effectiveness of cooperation within the group.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, this phenomenon was found to only apply to men, with physical strength having little impact on the leadership perceptions of women.
The researchers do conclude however that strength shouldn’t be regarded as a deal-breaker, with general leadership behavior enough to overcome any shortfalls in ones stature.
Regardless, it might do no harm to hit the gym now and then.