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Speak up: They’ll know you’re a leader

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in Leaders & Managers

New evidence shows that if you speak up, people will consider you a leader as long as you say something—anything—even if you’re wrong.

A University of California study set up four-person teams and asked each to organize a nonprofit group. After the videotaped work sessions, team members and outside judges rated participants on their levels of influence and competence.

Everyone rated those who spoke up as higher in “general intelligence,” while quieter team members were tagged as more “conventional” or “uncreative.”

And did the talkers actually have more to say?

To answer that question, the researchers ran a second study with new volunteers who competed in teams to solve math problems from the GMAT, the standard graduate school entrance exam. Once again, people who spoke up more often were more likely to be considered leaders—and smarter, too.

The ones rated highest weren’t the people who offered the most correct answers, only the most answers. Neither were their actual SAT scores the best. Even though they weren’t any more competent than their teammates, these “dominant individuals behaved as if they were,” a researcher said.

And team members fell for it. Nearly always—94% of the time—they used the first answer shouted out.

Lesson: Although it also says a lot about how superficially people choose leaders, this set of studies does offer one clear message to those in search of a promotion: Speak up.

— Adapted from “Why Bosses Tend to Be Blowhards,” Jeffrey Kluger, Time. 

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