Now when the debate about the new leadership rules and practices in Finnish universities start to boil over, it may be instructive to seek consolation and advice from the nature where everything is harmonious and purposeful to the perfection. And what would be a better place to start than the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), the next most lovely fish on the face of the earth.
Jenniffer Harcourt and colleges performed a series of experiments with stickleback pairs where one of the individuals was of bold personality type, and another shy. They found out that both fish in a pair responded to each other’s actions, but the bolder fish displayed greater initiative and were less responsive to their partners than the shy fish. The latter displayed less initiative, but followed their partners more faithfully. Most interestingly, the shy fish elicited greater leadership tendencies in their bold partners.
Hence, it looks as if leadership is partly a personality issue, but also to some degree, a socially reinforced trait – followers make leaders. Lets see how this works out in Finnish universities – leaders making leaders?
Harcourt JL et al. (2009) Social feedback and the emergence of leaders and followers. Current Biology 19: 248-252.