Too smart to lead

New research(1) suggests that a very high IQ may be too much of a good thing when it comes to leadership. The optimal IQ for “perceived” leadership appears at about 1.2 standard deviations above the mean IQ of the group membership.

Individuals who are too intelligent vis-à-vis the group they lead may limit how effective they could be. The leaders may be limited because they:

  1. present more sophisticated solutions to problems which may be much more difficult to understand.
  2. use complex forms of verbal communication and expressive sophistication that may also undermine influence.
  3. come across as too “cerebral” making them less prototypical of the group.

Leaders should be representative of the group they are leading. If they are too intellectual, they may appear to be socially aloof or too detached from the group. Important to note here is that we are talking about perceived—and not objective—ratings of leadership.

We are so bloodily gregarious!


Antonakis, John, Robert J. House, and Dean Keith Simonton. 2017. ‘Can Super Smart Leaders Suffer from Too Much of a Good Thing? The Curvilinear Effect of Intelligence on Perceived Leadership Behavior.’ Journal of Applied Psychology 102 (7):1003–21.

Featured image: tfw too intelligent / 2smart – Wojack on a desert island

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