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A CEO's face is important for driving sales - Maybe!

For years, we have known that personality traits drive leadership. What about physical traits? In a study by Wong, Ormiston & Haselhuhn (2011) they hypothesized that it could be possible that facial structures of leaders could be correlating (not causing) organizational performance. 

The objective physical trait used in this study was the facial width-to-height ratio (WHR), which is the ratio between left and right zygion to the distance between eyebrow and the upper lip. WHR is linked with evolutionary psychology. Males with higher WHR are linked with more aggressive behavior and it has been suggested that higher facial WHRs make males look more imposing which minimizes their chance of being fought back (Stirrat & Perrett, 2010).

Although previous research had found socially negative traits associated with higher facial WHRs (like aggression, untrustworthiness), the authors sought out to find some positive ones. Amazingly, when they looked at 55 publicly listed fortune 500 companies including Hewlett-Packard and Nike, they found that CEO with higher facial WHRs were running the firms at a higher profit and some also changed the whole image like going eco-friendly. They also looked at top management teams and found that the relationship between the CEO's facial WHR and firm's performance was moderated by the cognitive complexity of the leadership teams. 

Evolutionarily, the imposing story makes sense, but what about some known examples like Steve Jobs? Moreover, correlations are good trends to look at but shouldn't be concluded as saying the face of a CEO causes sales to rise. So, anyway, now it official: "Firms headed by CEOs with wider faces achived superior financial performance".



Wong, E.M., Ormiston, M.E., & Haselhuhn, M.P.(2011). A Face Only an Investor Could Love : CEOs' Facial Structure Predicts Their Firms' Financial Performance. Psychological Science, 22, 1478-1483.

Stirrat, M., & Perrett, D. I. (2010). Valid facial cues to cooperation and trust: Male facial width and trustworthiness. Psychological Science, 21, 349–354