Does an attractive partner make you a better leader? Only if you are a male!

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We integrate the research on evolutionary leadership with the evolutionary psychology of mate choice to argue that a facially attractive partner signals unobservable leadership qualities of their mate, and thus, partner's attractiveness spills over to their mate's perceived leadership. Study 1 found that while partner's attractiveness enhanced the perceived leadership of male CEOs, female CEOs' leadership was downgraded in the presence of an attractive partner. Study 2 validated that the leadership penalty for female CEOs increased when they were seen with more attractive males than with less attractive males. Study 3 found that conservative candidates that were male benefitted more from an attractive partner than their liberal counterparts but female candidates were penalized regardless of political ideology. Our findings suggest that indirect cues that emanate from the partner are critical for leadership assessment. They invoke attributions that enhance the perceived leadership of males but disapprove of females as leaders.

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Leadership Quarterly



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