Does it sometimes seem as if your boss is a Neanderthal? Well, that’s because – at least according to the authors of Selected: Why Some People Lead, Why Others Follow, and Why It Matters – the slowness of human evolution has created an unfortunate lag between modern forms of leadership and the kind of leadership that registers with our prehistoric brains.

“Humans separated by hundreds, even thousands, of generations are, genomically speaking, indistinguishable,” the authors write. “...Our physical and social environments have changed dramatically in the past 13,000 years, since the agricultural revolution; environmental and social change has mostly outpaced the rate at which our genomes can keep up.”

As a result, the authors have conceived of “The Mismatch Hypothesis” – a theory that helps explain failures in leadership, from corrupt banking executives to unethical politicians to the everyday office manager who, according to two-thirds of all employees in America, are the direct cause of most of their problems and stress. As odd as it may sound, your incompetent office manager may have landed his position simply because he’s either male, charismatic, blessed with a square jawline, exudes good health, or is just simply tall.

“There is a well-documented correlation between height and success in the workplace,” the authors note. “One July 2004 study of more than eight thousand British and American workers calculated that a six-footer earns, on average, nearly $166,000 more during a 30-year career than someone who is 5 feet 5 inches – even when controlling for gender, age and weight.”

It’s a startling statistic considering how truly unessential it is for a modern-day CEO or political leader to merely be tall – and yet with each of the above seemingly superficial characteristics, the authors make effective cases in explaining why these traits were useful for leaders of small 100-strong tribes of blood relatives on the savannah.

This entertaining and broad-ranging book explores everything from the reason why despotic rulers crop up time and again in our apparently egalitarian society to the importance of followers, and explaining the various types of followings that exist and exactly how and where each type fits into a “commitment spectrum.”

This is a quick, fun and informative read – for leaders and followers alike.

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