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This Is the Physique of a Natural Leader, According to Science

Want to project an aura of control, status, and confidence? Start hitting the weights, says a new study.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson isn’t running for president in 2016. But if he's not too tied up saving chicks on the beach during Baywatch filming, he may want to consider it. As far as science is concerned, he’s got some serious electability chops.

Strong, muscular men seem like they have more social status, and would be better leaders, than physically less imposing guys—regardless of their actual ability, according to a new study out of the University of California, Berkeley.

(L-R) Hugh Jackman, Dwayne Johnson, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Would you follow these guys into battle? Damn right you would.

For the study, Cameron Anderson, Ph.D., a management professor and sociology expert at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and Aaron Lukaszewski, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Oklahoma State, gathered a bunch of guys of varying physiques and measured their upper-body strength. Then the researchers photographed them in a physique-revealing white tank top, like Hugh Jackman in Wolverine, or Vin Diesel in the pages of Men’s Fitness.

The researchers then recruited a series of male and female judges to review the photos based on “how much they admired [the subject], held him in esteem, and believed he would rise in status.” The judges also answered questions about the men, like “Do you think this person would be a good leader?” and “How effective is this person dealing with others in a group?”

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The measurably stronger guys earned higher marks for status and leadership qualities, even though the judges knew nothing about the men’s personalities or leadership abilities, and even after controlling for the guys' looks.

"Our findings are consistent with a lot of real examples of strong men in positions of power," says Anderson.

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If you’re tempted to get a jumpstart on your 2020 campaign by hitting the squat rack, know that the researchers stumbled onto one catch: Guys who looked muscular and threatening were less likely to earn natural leader points. "Strong men who were perceived as being likely to behave aggressively toward other group members were actually granted less status than their apparently gentler counterparts,” Lukaszewski said in the press release.

“Perceived strength does give people an advantage but it’s not make or break,” Anderson said. “If you’re behaving in ways that demonstrate you are a leader or are not a leader, strength doesn’t matter.”

So take a page from Dwayne Johnson's playbook: Crush some weights and smile.


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