The Facial Appearance of CEOs: Faces Signal Selection but Not Performance

J.I. Stoker, S. Windman (Editor), Harry Garretsen, Lieuwe Jan Spreeuwers

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    37 Citations (Scopus)
    114 Downloads (Pure)


    Research overwhelmingly shows that facial appearance predicts leader selection. However, the evidence on the relevance of faces for actual leader ability and consequently performance is inconclusive. By using a state-of-the-art, objective measure for face recognition, we test the predictive value of CEOs’ faces for firm performance in a large sample of faces. We first compare the faces of Fortune500 CEOs with those of US citizens and professors. We find clear confirmation that CEOs do look different when compared to citizens or professors, replicating the finding that faces matter for selection. More importantly, we also find that faces of CEOs of top performing firms do not differ from other CEOs. Based on our advanced face recognition method, our results suggest that facial appearance matters for leader selection but that it does not do so for leader performance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0159950
    Pages (from-to)e0159950:1-11
    Number of pages11
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2016


    • EWI-27118
    • SCS-Safety
    • facial appearance
    • IR-100903
    • Face Recognition
    • METIS-318481
    • Classification


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