The leading face of the future

Ever wondered what the faces of future business leaders will look like? No, us neither.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Scientists at the University of Kent have come up with a photofit of the optimum face for future business success. Judging by the pictures, we wouldn’t necessarily want to run into these two down a dark alley – but if we did, presumably it would make sense to offer them a job. Apparently the composites have been put together based on our perception of what leaders look like – but although packaging is clearly crucial to business success, does that apply to bosses too?

If you’re thinking this sounds a bit far-fetched (not unreasonably), we’ll explain the science behind it. The scientists interviewed about 90 people and asked them to list the character traits crucial to business success – risk-taking, ability to make difficult decisions, assertiveness, blah blah blah. They were then asked to score 200 faces on the extent to which they exhibited these traits. Using some computer wizardry that’s far too complicated for our meagre little brains to understand, the boffins were then able to turn this into a picture of the perfect face for tomorrow’s leader. As you can see, a pronounced brow and forehead were important for men, while thin eyebrows, wide eyes and full lips mattered most for women. Naturally.

Apparently the study was commissioned by Vauxhall as part of its new Insignia launch – presumably because the carmaker hopes all future business leaders will be driving its version of the Mondeo (assuming it hasn’t gone bust by then). A slightly tenuous link, you might argue – but perhaps no more tenuous than its conclusion, that men with big foreheads and women with big eyes are more likely to succeed.  The survey also fails to provide any crumbs of comfort for would-be leaders without any of these physical attributes; nor indeed, for those unfortunates who do have thin eyebrows, wide eyes and full lips, but are entirely lacking in inspiration. How can they avoid misleading people?

Of course, it’s true that appearances matter in business. It’s long been attested that good looks are a useful attribute for any leader – one of the most important, some might say. Superficial it may be, but it’s an instinctive response. So to this extent, we’re prepared to accept that some people are more likely to look like leaders than others. We’re just not convinced these two characters fall into that category...

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