How earlobes can signify leadership potential

Carl Senior*, Robin Martin, Michael West, Rowena M. Yeats

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evolutionary biologists have learned that people with greater “genetic fitness,” as manifested by a high degree of left-right body symmetry, are not just considered better looking but also tend to be healthier, more intelligent, and more dominant than others. They’re the classic alphas who rise to the top of rigidly hierarchical organizations such as the military.
But our research shows that people with subtle asymmetries—for example, imbalances in ear or finger length—are often better “transformational” leaders, able to inspire followers to put self-interest aside for the good of the group. Furthermore, teams they lead outperform teams whose leaders have more-symmetrical bodies.
These findings add a new twist to the debate about whether effective leaders are born or made. We believe it’s not asymmetry per se that positions people to be good transformational leaders. Instead, we argue, these individuals’ childhood responses to others’ perceptions shape them for success.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages32
JournalHarvard Business Review
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011


  • commerce
  • facial asymmetry
  • United States
  • leadership


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