Naturally Selected: The Evolutionary Science of Leadership

Naturally Selected: The Evolutionary Science of Leadership

by Mark Van Vugt, Anjana Ahuja
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

A groundbreaking and definitive work of evolutionary psychology that upends everything we thought we knew about leadership

We are all leaders or followers—or both—and we can recognize leadership in almost every area of life. But what makes a good, bad, or even outstanding leader? Fusing psychology, business, evolutionary

Overview

A groundbreaking and definitive work of evolutionary psychology that upends everything we thought we knew about leadership

We are all leaders or followers—or both—and we can recognize leadership in almost every area of life. But what makes a good, bad, or even outstanding leader? Fusing psychology, business, evolutionary biology, and current affairs, Naturally Selected examines the evolution of leadership over several million years, from birds and bees to apes and humans, and presents a compelling new hypothesis: the slow pace of evolution has resulted in a mismatch between modern leadership and the kind of leadership for which our Stone Age brains are wired.

Grounded in rigorous academic scholarship, written with journalistic flair, and full of fascinating examples drawn from politics, commerce, sports, and culture, this extraordinary, eye-opening book explains:

  • why tall presidential candidates usually beat short ones
  • why great athletes often make lousy managers
  • why we don't like working for huge companies
  • why women chief executives attract hostility
  • why middle managers are universally reviled

In doing so, Naturally Selected reveals how the psychology of leadership affects us all—and how we can change our lives by improving the ways we lead and follow.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

A pop-psych effort at identifying the traits of a leader, in which nature trumps nurture.

What makes a good leader? Write van Vugt (Psychology/VU University Amsterdam) and journalist Ahuja, the good leader has characteristics that address our latent primate selves, the ones that fear snakes and spiders even though there are countless more dangerous things in our environments. We are evolutionarily adapted as humans to live in groups, and most of us require leaders or bosses to get us pointed in the right direction. "We crave a sense of belonging," write the authors, "and if we don't find it within our own families, we will seek out other collectives, such as cults or gangs, which can offer it." Of course, Hobbes and Gibbon were saying this well before Darwin came along, and the strongest insights of this jargon-laden book are derived from more traditional branches of psychology. Still, it proves useful in thinking about our hereditary characteristics—that propensity to belong to a group, for instance, which so often, given dysfunctional families, leads to membership in a quasi-family structure such as a street gang. The notion of the mismatch accounts for many failures of leadership, for "we often select leaders on the basis of physical and psychological traits that once would have served those small, ancestral, egalitarian hunter-gatherer groups [of the evolutionary past] well, but which are of less importance in today's large-scale, fast-paced environments." Thus Hitler, who appealed to the gibbering chimp in us, and thus John McCain's defeat in the last presidential election, for we read him as too old and too martial to bring change and peace. Desmond Morris beat this book to many of its punches two generations ago, but van Vugt and Ahuja provide some fresh material in the practical-applications section that closes the narrative.

Of use to business readers and self-help types comfortable with Darwinian notions—to say nothing of Machiavellianism.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061963834
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
01/18/2011
Pages:
262
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Mark van Vugt is a leading international authority on the science of leadership. He is a professor of psychology at VU University Amsterdam and a research associate at the University of Oxford. He lives near Amsterdam.

Anjana Ahuja holds a PhD in space physics, and is a former science columnist and feature writer for the London Times. She lives in London.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >