What do muscles mean to you?

What connotations do you associate with physical strength? Assertiveness, confidence, self-assurance? A new study adds leadership to that list, discovering that a muscular physique can improve a man’s image as a potential leader.

The researchers asked men and women to rate people’s status and leadership qualities based on photographs. The participants overwhelmingly tied physical strength in men with higher status and leadership, but only if he doesn’t come across as a bully.

According to study co-author Cameron Anderson, a professor of management at the University of California in Berkeley, ‘the physically strong men in the pictures were given higher status because they are perceived as leaders.’

However, you don’t necessarily have to muscle up in order to be a leader. The study authors add that the findings do not mean that less physically imposing men are at a disadvantage. As Anderson explains, ‘perceived strength does give people an advantage, but it’s not make or break. If you’re behaving in ways that demonstrate that you are a leader, strength doesn’t matter.’

In addition, the researchers also found that strong people don’t succeed by bullying their rivals. Study co-author Aaron Lukaszewski added, ‘strong men who are perceived as being likely to behave aggressively toward other group members were actually granted less status than their apparently gentler counterparts.’

Source: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology