As the study reveals, while aggressive leaders (Chads) manage by making demands of their peers, more agreeable managers (beta boys) pursue group consensus by working together. The beta outcome: a plurality of opinions and generally better results. Per the study, “When these dominant males act as potential sources of social information in a group consensus association task, their groups perform poorly. Instead, subordinate males, who occupy peripheral social network positions and have little influence over group movement under normal circumstances, are the most effective in generating group consensus.”
Now is probably as good a time as any to mention that the subjects of this study were fish, not humans, so we should be wary about applying the results to our workplace dynamics. “As attractive as it may seem, it’s a stretch to apply these findings to human workplace ethics, political leadership and other social aspects of our lives,” says study author Fritz Francisco. “We always need to stress that fish, although vertebrates, aren’t humans, and therefore, the processes by which such rules of interaction evolved could be very different from our own.”
Still, this study shines a light on the very real issue of Chads in management. These are the managers who lead by coercion and intimidation to climb the ladder, stomping on their teammates along the way. Their sharp elbows may produce results — although, not necessarily better results than a compromising approach — but at the cost of everyone around them.
“If you’re a dominant leader, you can intimidate your team members, thwarting their ability to solve problems creatively, not to mention the ill effects you’ll have on morale,” says Nancy Ancowitz, career coach and author of Self-Promotion for Introverts®. On the flip side, she says, “Calm, level-headed managers, who are often introverts, think before they speak or act. Doing so sets an example for others to be more reflective in making smart decisions for an organization. It also creates an atmosphere in which everyone can breathe freer and bring their best to the job.”
Unfortunately, the problem of Chads in leadership goes far beyond corporate management, and the outcome is on the news every day. Authoritarian government leaders like Trump, Putin and Lukashenko have become the new normal. Studies suggest that populations embrace such dominant leadership under economic uncertainty and feelings of having no personal control over their lives. In other words, people hope that aggressive leaders will take the reins and follow through on their pledges to bring about peace and prosperity. But once they take the throne, the people who got them there are typically swept under the rug, along with the issues they promised to solve. For example, Trump promised “insurance for everybody,” whereas an estimated 5.4 million American workers lost their health insurance just between February and May alone. Now, the citizens (or team members) he manages are suffering and revolting.
The same thing can happen when you have a manager with Chad-esque characteristics. “Would you rather report to someone who’s even-keeled, who lets you finish your sentences, values your input and thinks carefully about decisions they make, or a flame-throwing, amygdala-hijacking boss?” Ancowitz asks.
The answer, I hope, is obvious.
Now, none of this is a knock against proactive managers. Many teams need managers who are enthusiastic and eager, but no team needs a Chad who ignores their input and uses them as pawns. “Assertive leaders have their place,” Ancowitz says. “Sometimes you need a ‘boss’ in charge, who can make smart decisions at lightning speed in which their teams need to follow in lockstep. But that doesn’t mean that the assertive leaders have to dominate or bully their teams.”
Perhaps the perfect manager, then, is a combination of soy boy and Chad, a person who consults and considers their team, and is also willing to take charge if necessary.
Or in simpler terms, a good manager begins with a good person.