What exactly does it mean to look like a leader?
There is, of course, the notion that you should dress for success. But are there other ways to inspire confidence in your leadership abilities?
According to new research, it could be as simple as taking care of yourself.
A Dutch-led study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience finds that people mostly ignore facial features that might make someone look smart. But they overwhelmingly prefer people who look healthy.
The researchers came to that conclusion by having study participants view pictures of the same man with digital adjustments that made him appear more or less intelligent and more or less healthy. (The nature of these digital tweaks wasn't explained.) Participants were asked which man in the pictures would do the best job as CEO of a company. According to the results, more than two-thirds of participants chose the man with the healthier complexion as the most powerful leader.
Lead researcher Dr. Brian Spisak explained the findings as follows:
Here we show that it always pays for aspiring leaders to look healthy, which explains why politicians and executives often put great effort, time, and money in their appearance. If you want to be chosen for a leadership position, looking intelligent is an optional extra under context-specific situations whereas the appearance of health appears to be important in a more context-general way across a variety of situations.
Meanwhile, the study authors concluded that "attractiveness is in part driven by cues to health, and healthy leaders are likely to be exceptionally important when disease threatens the viability of the group."
Moral of the story? Take care of yourself before you take care of business. That means get enough sleep, exercise, and a well-rounded diet. Employees can tell when you're burned out.