The right face leads to success: Facial structure predicts financial performance

A face only an investor could love – CEOs’ facial structure predicts their firms’ financial performance

From Psychological Science

Leadership researchers have long theorized that innate characteristics distinguish successful leaders from unsuccessful leaders. This paper considers if innate personal traits are related to leadership success, specifically identifying leaders’ facial structure, the facial width-to-height ratio (WHR), as a physical trait that correlates with organizational performance. The study reveals that firms headed by CEOs with wider faces (relative to facial height) achieved superior financial performance. In a key departure from previous research, which has focused on observers’ subjective assessments of faces, it has identified specific, measureable characteristics that can be reliably captured from photographs.


Researchers have theorized that innate personal traits are related to leadership success. Although links between psychological characteristics and leadership success have been well established, research has yet to identify any objective physical traits of leaders that predict organizational performance. In the research reported here, we identified leaders’ facial structure as a specific physical trait that correlates with organizational performance. Specifically, we found that firms whose male CEOs have wider faces (relative to facial height) achieve superior financial performance. Decision-making dynamics within a firm’s leadership team moderate this effect, such that the relationship between a given CEO’s facial measurements and his firm’s financial performance is stronger in firms with cognitively simple leadership teams.

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Article details
Wong, E., Ormiston, M., & Haselhuhn, M. (2011). A Face Only an Investor Could Love: CEOs’ Facial Structure Predicts Their Firms’ Financial Performance Psychological Science DOI: 10.1177/0956797611418838

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