Researchers have developed a mathematical model that explores how leaders and followers emerge in different circumstances and predicts the most likely personality types of those leaders.
Rufus A. Johnstone and Andrea Manica modeled a large population whose members formed groups and competed in a simple coordination game.
The authors assumed each member would favor a different course of action, and awarded payoffs to members who recruited the most followers and to groups that agreed on a joint decision.
Contrary to previous studies suggesting that information or resources enhance an individual's tendency to become a leader, the model revealed that temperament determines a person's inclination to lead or follow.
The authors suggest that leaders are often bold, extroverted, and inquisitive because leadership involves some level of risk-taking, and because individuals with these characteristics are more likely than others to embrace that risk and make decisions for a group.
The model also found that pairs of individuals are more productive decision-makers when one person takes the lead and the other person follows, while two leaders or two followers often culminate in a stalemate.
In a large group, one leader will typically emerge when arguments are few.
But in a group plagued by conflict, many leaders will likely emerge as each leader tries to impose their views and opinions on their followers, according to the authors.
The findings have been published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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More information: "The evolution of personality differences in leadership," by Rufus A. Johnstone and Andrea Manica Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2011).