With the political convention season upon us, it's a fine time to ask ourselves: What makes a great leader, anyway? What separates Alexander the Great from Alexander the Assistant Regional Manager?
Jules Suzadaltsev looks into the issue from at the Republican National Convention, where leadership pulses through the air like supercharged alpha particles from the sun. (Or not.)
Leadership qualities are tricky to define but a recent study making the rounds suggests that good leaders might actually have hidden brain powers. According to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, those who display natural leadership skills actually synchronize their brains with their followers' brains as they communicate.
The experiment monitored brain activity among small groups of people as they conversed to determine a course of action. When a leader emerged from the process, activity in the left temporo-parietal junctions -- where brain-waves are converted into speech -- started to sync up between the leader and the followers. The phenomenon suggests that good leaders are able to communicate at a fundamentally higher level that regular folks, and can transmit their way of thinking in a rather literal sense.
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The new research builds on a growing body of research trying to determine what the core elements of leadership are, and whether there is a possible genetic component. A study in the journal Twin Research concluded that many of the specific traits associated with leadership -- popularity, sociability, judgement -- are indeed heritable.
In yet another study (here at DNews, there's always another study), psychologists determined that some aspects of leadership, like persistence and confidence, can be learned and taught and passed along.
One thing to keep in mind is that the great majority of leadership studies have come from U.S. institutions or have otherwise focused on Americans. The concept of leadership differs among cultures, and America's brand of rugged individualism doesn't translate in places where collectivism is more highly valued.
In other words, it's entirely possible that American ideas of leadership look very strange to the rest of the world. For more on Donald Trump, stay tuned to our ongoing coverage of the Republican National Convention. In fact, our Seeker Daily team will be covering both the RNC and the DNC! Stay up-to-date by heading over to their page here.
-- Glenn McDonald
NCBI: Nature Vs Nurture: Are Leaders Born Or Made? A Behavior Genetic Investigation Of Leadership Style
Science Magazine: Successful Careers: A Matter Of Confidence
Forbes: What Is Leadership?