Good News Donald Trump, You Don't Have to Be Very Smart to Be a Good Leader

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U.S. President Donald Trump talks to the media during the East Asia Summit in Manila, Philippines November 14. Erik De Castro/Reuters

It’s often suggested by Donald Trump’s critics that because he makes spelling mistakes/can’t always remember names/grasp the finer points of traditional diplomacy (delete as applicable), he must be a bad leader.

But new research could bring good news for the president. A new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology posits that it’s possible for leaders to be too intelligent.

According to a summary on the British Psychological Society website, John Antonakis at the University of Lausanne, working alongside colleagues, signed up 379 mid-ranking leaders in a range of 30 private companies, most of them European.

Each of the leaders took the Wonderlic Personnel Test, a widely-used measurement of mental ability, as well as a personality questionnaire.

Meanwhile, researchers also took a look at reviews of each leader completed by eight people drawn from among their seniors and subordinates.

These peers completed the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire, which rates a leader’s style of leadership. The questionnaire factors in a range of different styles including “passive leaders” and “transformative leaders,” who “inspire others to become leaders themselves.”

Some of these styles are generally considered to be useful, while others, such as passive, are more detrimental.

As the researchers looked at the leadership styles of the different leaders, they found that, on the whole, the smarter they were, the more effective they were—but only up to a point.

Leaders with an IQ higher than 120 displayed, on average, lower scores in the positive leadership styles than those less intelligent than them.

And beyond IQs of 128, there was a clear and statistically significant tendency not to use the most effective leadership styles.

The leaders had a “fairly even” spread of intelligence scores, the summary said, while their average IQ was 111, a little above the general population, where the average is 100.

So while being relatively smart may well mean someone is a better leader, being very smart might mean you’re too clever for your own good.

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