Developmental stability and leadership effectiveness

Carl Senior, Robin Martin, Geoff Thomas, Anna Topakas, Michael West, Rowena M. Yeats

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Developmental stability is the degree to which we can withstand environmental or genetic stressors during development. Fluctuating asymmetry (FA), concerns the extent to which the right and left side of the body is asymmetrical and is one way to measure developmental stability. Two studies were carried out that examined both the predictive value of leader FA with leadership behaviors and its role in facilitating group performance. The first study examined the hypothesis that a leader's FA is correlated with scores on the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ). The results revealed individuals with a more asymmetrical morphology scored higher on the transformational, but not transactional, dimensions of leadership behavior. A second study examined the hypothesis that asymmetrical morphology and leadership effectiveness would share a positive relationship. In this study participants who led a business game exercise, revealed a positive relationship between FA and self-reported well-being and task satisfaction. Importantly, there was also a positive correlation between the leader's FA score and group performance. The role that developmental stability may play in leadership effectiveness is discussed in the wider context of evolutionary psychology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-291
Number of pages11
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number2
Early online date1 Sept 2011
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012


  • developmental stability
  • fluctuating asymmetry
  • leadership effectiveness
  • evolutionary psychology


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