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July 08, 2016

Study Finds Look of Leadership Differs for Nonprofits

A new paper by two University of Toronto psychologists suggests that the faces of successful nonprofit and business leaders have distinctly different characteristics, The Wall Street Journal writes.

The research by Daniel Re and Nicholas Rule involved having volunteers rate the faces of top nonprofit executives on factors such as dominance, maturity, likability, and trustworthiness. The former two characteristics were rolled into a “power” rating, the latter two combined under the rubric of “warmth.” To eliminate other biases, only images of white male leaders, who predominate in such positions, were used.

In an earlier study, Mr. Rule found that people with powerful-looking faces tended to lead the most successful corporations. The new experiment, using photos of CEOs with nonprofits ranked in Forbes’ top 100 on the basis of donation revenue, found the opposite: The power faces belonged to the heads of less successful groups.

Mr. Rule said the results suggest certain facial characteristics may imply qualities that both steer people into charity work and make nonprofits more receptive to hiring them. “People who look a certain way may be given particular opportunities that then allow them to develop congruent skills,” he said.