The age of exploration and exploitation: Younger-looking leaders endorsed for change and older-looking leaders endorsed for stability

Brian R. Spisak, Allen E. Grabo, Richard D Arvey, Mark van Vugt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

The current contribution extends theorizing on leadership and the exploration-exploitation dilemma using an evolutionary perspective. A theoretical connection is made between the exploration-exploitation dilemma and age-biased leadership preferences for exploratory change versus stable exploitation. For the majority of human evolution our species was semi- or entirely nomadic and the trade-off between exploration versus exploitation had substantial physical- and experience-based requirements which align with leadership opportunities as moderated by age. Thus, given the consistency and importance of correctly assigning leadership for the exploration-exploitation dilemma, human evolution has likely selected for age-biased leadership endorsement. Across three experiments we find that younger-looking leaders are endorsed for times of exploratory change and older-looking leaders for stable exploitation. Further, our results indicated that older leaders are endorsed for leading conservative exploitation of nonrenewable resources and younger leaders for exploration of renewable alternatives (i.e., green leadership). The results introduce an age-biased leadership endorsement hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)805-816
Number of pages12
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Volume25
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

Keywords

  • Age
  • Evolution
  • Exploration-exploitation dilemma
  • Face perception
  • Leadership

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