Stanford Graduate School of Business organizational behavior professor Lindred Greer has conducted some excellent research on team dynamics. In this article on the Stanford website, Luke Stangel describes one interesting class exercise that Greer has conducted. The exercise reveals that we do not always choose our leaders wisely. Here's an excerpt from that article:
In top-down team structures, the leader holds more influence than others over the eventual decision. That’s dangerous when the team’s leader knows less about the subject than his or her team, Greer says.
She described a class exercise where Stanford undergraduates were asked to choose the smartest person in the room to lead them out of a theoretical desert. Researchers found roughly 50% of students were persuaded to choose a leader based on the person’s attractiveness, height, vocal intonation, facial features, gender and other arbitrary factors.
Students who chose their leader based on relevant knowledge “survived” the exercise; those who chose their leader based on arbitrary factors didn’t.
“When you’re in a meeting and everybody’s speaking up, it’s critical to make sure you’re listening to the right person,” Greer says. “That may not always be the tallest person or the person with the most seniority. It’s the person who knows most about this particular situation. That’s the challenge of teamwork: It’s going to change moment to moment, based on the discussion.”