The Secret to Becoming a Successful Leader

Great leaders are often the product of various interconnected factors. They may have the empathy to relate with their subordinates. This characteristic allows them to be relatable and approachable—useful in a team dynamic, where openness and collaboration are vital.

Exceptional managers also have wide-ranging vision to see the future of their company or partnership, with long-term, achievable goals that show marked progression. This gives them the ability to dream big but realistically, leading to attainable achievements. Complementing this is the capacity of a great leader to inspire. A solid vision is not enough if the leader alone is the only one working toward it—they be able to impart this vision with others to such an extent that these others will be willing to work towards it as well.

An ability to manage is likewise integral to the makeup of an outstanding leader. How will the vision be realized? What are the steps that must be taken? How will each collaborator contribute towards the success of the goal? A great leader will be able to leverage all aspects involved and put them to good use.

This is also where aptitude comes into play. Leaders must be extraordinary in their field of work, which helps in facilitating their vision. These people lead by example as well, and if they aren’t good at their job, then they will fail to attract the support necessary to achieve their ends.

All of these attributes are driven by the motivation to succeed, which is the fuel that drives these gears forward. Without ample motivation, nothing gets done and a vision remains only that—a vision. This is why many success stories are so reliant upon the leaders working incredibly hard toward their goal.

The Secret to Becoming a Successful Leader

All of these key skills are well and good, but there is an added advantage that was previously unrecognized—the leader’s voice. At least in males, anyway.

A recent study by professors at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University as well as the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego has found that deeper voices generally correlate with— not cause— both higher salary and working for more successful companies.

The researchers studied the vocal pitches of 792 male CEOs from the Standard and Poor’s 1500 Composite Index, a database covering the top players in United States equities. Voice samples—from earnings meetings or presentations with investors— were obtained from each CEO, and the frequencies of the samples were measured. These were then juxtaposed against metrics, such as time with the company, compensation, and company size.

The study found that CEOs with lower-frequency voices (read: deeper) made USD 187,000 more and helmed companies worth USD 440 million more than the median sample (who earned USD 3.7 million, was in charge of a group worth USD 2.4 billion, and had a voice at the 125-Hz frequency).

To put that into perspective, Duke Associate Professor Bill Mayew gives two well-known examples of voices. James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader and Mufasa, has an 85-Hz voice. On the other hand, Gilbert Gottfried, who played the parrot Iago in Aladdin, has a 200-Hz voice.

The findings were published in the April 8 issue of Evolution and Human Behavior. Prior studies have indicated that bass voices are preferable when selecting a male mate. Another, separate Duke study from 2012 noted that citizens are more inclined towards deeper-voiced political candidates.

Perhaps that’s why Morgan Freeman was chosen to portray the Judeo-Christian deity in the Almighty movies. Judging from his voice alone, he seems to have the makings of a great leader.



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