Up until now it has been assumed that an intelligent leader is a good leader. But new research into IQ and leadership suggests that being too intelligent in relation to your employees could have negative effects on how they perceive you.
In 1985, Professor Dean Simonton came up with a theory. He predicted a non-linear, inverted U-Shaped relation of intelligence to the perception of leadership. Meaning that there would be a positive correlation up to a certain point at which it would switch to a negative correlation, creating an upside down U-Shape. He created four important parameters to support his argument:
Intellectual Superiority, which simply states that smarter people are better at solving problems than others.
The Comprehension Factor, that suggests if the intelligence gap between leaders and their followers is too great then the effectiveness of the relationship is impaired.
The Criticism Factor represents intelligently superior rivals that may undermine a leader.
Intellectual Stratification represents the relativity of average levels of intelligence against the type and complexity of the work involved (The higher the average intelligence of the group, the higher the intelligence of the leader).
It took Simonton over 30 years to plan, carry out and finalise research into his theory.
The recent study at The University of California involved 379 Business Leaders in 30 countries. They all took IQ tests and then were rated on leadership style and effectiveness by their co-workers. The results proved Simonton’s theory to be correct, there was a positive correlation between intelligence and ratings until they hit 120 IQ, after this the ratings of the leader declined.
In terms of The Comprehension Factor the research found that leaders need to be within 18 IQ points of their followers. This means that if your followers have in IQ of 100 then your own personal score shouldn’t exceed 118 or your followers will find it hard to relate and your ideas may go right over their heads. The aim is to hold enough Intellectual Superiority that your group look up to you but not so smart that they can’t identify with you.
That doesn’t mean that super smart people can’t be leaders though, they just need to find a group of likeminded almost-as-smart group of people to lead.