Study: Slimmer CEOs are often considered better leaders

Physical aspects of leadership are perceived as important, expert says

Topics: Behavioral Health, Service Lines

January 23, 2013

New research suggests that executives with larger waistlines and higher body mass indexes (BMIs) are often perceived as less effective leaders in their workplaces than their slimmer colleagues.

"Because the demands of leadership can be quite strenuous, the physical aspects are just as important as everything else," Sharon McDowell-Larsen, an exercise physiologist with the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), says.

To determine the impact of weight on leadership perceptions, researchers reviewed hundreds of peer-performance assessments and health-screening results from CEOs and senior-level employees participating in a CCL event. Altogether, they examined data from 2006 to 2010 on 757 executives.

The study found that weight influences how well peers, subordinates, and superiors perceived their leadership abilities.

In general, the executives in the CCL study weighed, drank, and smoked less than the average U.S. resident. The executives who had a below-average BMI were most favored by peers.

The increased awareness of a CEO's appearance may stem from the new reality that executives should be camera-ready at a moment's notice to speak with investors or respond to a company emergency, according to the Wall Street Journal (Kwoh, Journal, 1/16).

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