Projects on Leadership


Find descriptions of research projects on leadership below. Visit the researcher's webpage by clicking on his/her name.


The Evolutionary Psychology of Status, Power, and Leadership

Researchers: Claire Ashton-James, Leander van der Meij, Thomas Pollet, Richard Ronay, Reinout de Vries, Mark van Vugt

This research project studies the origins, evolution, biology, and psychology of status, dominance, leadership through applying insights from evolutionary and psychological sciences to study such questions as whether leadership is adaptive, are men or women more status sensitive, and what are the similarities and differences between human and nonhuman dominance hierarchies. We adopt both a theoretical approach (rooted in game theory), and a survey and experimental psychological approach to study the biological and psychological underpinnings of status differences, dominance, and leader-follower relationships.


Leadership, Personality, and Morality

Researcher: Marise Born, Paul van Lange, Joshua Tybur, Reinout de Vries, Mark van Vugt

Arguably, the personality of team members, consisting of a team leader and any number of coworkers, constitutes the most important factor shaping the work environment in modern organizations. In this research project we look at personality, leadership, and morality from different angles. First, our research challenges the widely held conception that personality is best captured using the Big Five model. Instead, we show that a six-dimensional – HEXACO – structure better captures the nature of personality. The added sixth dimension, Honesty-Humility (or: Integrity) has major implications for work-related research in general and leadership and morality research in particular. Several studies show strong relations between HEXACO Honesty-Humility and ethical leadership, egoism, trust, and workplace delinquency, among others. Second, our research focuses on aspects of morality. One of the lines of research looks at the relations between personality, leadership, and moral behaviors and three dimensions of disgust: pathogen disgust, sexual disgust and moral disgust. One of the questions we pose is how disgust is expressed toward moral violations and what the consequences of expressions of disgust – of leaders and subordinates – are in team settings. For example, moral disgust may be associated with expressions of approach, i.e., anger and/or the desire to lash out at a transgressor. Both personality and the position (leader versus follower) of the observer and the expresser are thought to play a part in the behaviors exhibited and the consequences of these behaviors in terms of liking, trust, performance, and satisfaction of team members.


Leadership and Organizational Dynamics

Researcher: Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock, Janneke Oostrom, Richard Ronay, Reinout de Vries, Mark van Vugt

Most leadership and organizational phenomena are dynamic. Whether or not a leader succeeds will largely depend on the dynamics at work in the social context of that leader. Teams interact, adapt, and perform differently over time; individual employees’ attitudes and behaviors affect each other; and verbal and nonverbal communication yields dynamic patterns that impact individual, team, and organizational outcomes. Our research project crosses disciplinary boundaries, using innovative methodologies from hormonal measures to behavioral process analyses and social network analysis to study questions regarding the emergence and selection of leadership, the role of humor and laughter in team processes. Our research generates scientific insights as well as managerial and policy implications for organizations.