Inspecting the emperor's clothes

Evidence that random selection of leaders can enhance group performance

S. Alexander Haslam, Craig McGarty, Patricia M. Brown, Rachael A. Eggins, Brenda E. Morrison, Katherine J. Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Citations (Scopus)


This article tests the hypothesis that group performance might be superior when leaders are randomly rather than systematically selected. In Experiment 1 groups with randomly selected leaders performed a survival task better than groups whose leaders were systematically selected. This effect was replicated in Experiment 2: Groups with a random leader also performed better than groups with no appointed leader and followers adhered more strongly to the group decision. In Experiment 3, naive participants' experimental expectations confirmed the counterintuitive nature of these findings. Results suggest that systematically selected leaders can undermine group goals and group maintenance. The possibility that this occurs because leaders assert their personal superiority at the expense of shared social identity is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-184
Number of pages17
JournalGroup Dynamics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


Cite this

Haslam, S. A., McGarty, C., Brown, P. M., Eggins, R. A., Morrison, B. E., & Reynolds, K. J. (1998). Inspecting the emperor's clothes: Evidence that random selection of leaders can enhance group performance. Group Dynamics, 2(3), 168-184.