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Want to Be a Leader? Cultivate a Healthy Look

The appearance of fitness trumps a look of intelligence, researchers say

FRIDAY, Nov. 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- It's more important for potential business or political leaders to look healthy than intelligent, according to a study published online Nov. 5 in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

The study included 148 adults who were shown a series of two photos of men's faces and asked to pick which one they would choose as new chief executive officers (CEOs) for companies. When selecting between each pair of photos, the CEOs' main challenge was described to the participants. Each pair of photos actually featured the same man, but his face had been digitally altered to look more or less intelligent or more or less healthy.

The researchers found that, overall, participants chose more healthy-looking faces over more intelligent-looking faces 69 percent of the time. More intelligent faces were preferred only when the participants were told the CEO would have to negotiate between groups or find new markets.

"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," study lead author Brian Spisak, Ph.D., assistant professor at the department of management and organization at VU University Amsterdam, said in a journal news release. "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."

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