Have you ever noticed, in all areas of life, there are people who naturally like to take charge and there are people who prefer to follow?

What category do you fall into? Perhaps it’s situational. In some scenarios, you are likely to take a leadership position, and in other scenarios you would easily pass the baton onto another who seems more qualified or confident.

Did you know that human brains quickly and subconsciously conduct status rankings when we are with others? This helps determine who will be in charge and who will play supporting roles.

Why is this? Our left-brain hemisphere needs structure and order, and human systems provide that. As well, human systems allow us to ensure roles and responsibilities get covered and things get done, which typically means safer and healthier conditions for all.

For example, it would be chaotic if everyone was trying to lead. Society and organizations would be full of individuals working against each other and competing to have their voices heard and plans implemented, rather than collaborative teamwork and sharing of ideas.

On the other hand, if everyone was a follower, nothing would get done either. There would be no call to order, no organization of talent, no optimization of skill sets, or no quantifiable progress.

Extroverts vs. Introverts

While individuals may evolve and grow their level of responsibility and involvement, some people inherently like to take charge while others prefer less responsibility and minimal engagement with others.

This can relate to the personality trait of introversion and extroversion. Extroverts get energized being with and collaborating with others, while introverts get their energy from being alone or in smaller groups of people.

Some, like myself, are a combination of the two and need a good balance of people-time and me-time. Others fall primarily into one of the two categories

Status Theory

Organization is essential to life. Organisms in the natural world are linked in an intricate web-like system, through the transfer of energy and nutrients. You can see this played out in the cyclical nature of the hierarchy in the animal kingdom.

Humans also need to share and transfer energy and fuel, to meet needs, to protect ourselves, and to get things done. This means that when people come together in any kind of group, they immediately and subconsciously look for a way to organize themselves effectively.

The Status Characteristics Theory is a ranking system through which team members, unbeknownst to themselves, develop an unspoken consensus of who should be in charge.

It is interesting to note that there is a high degree of commonality in terms of the relative rank people silently assign to each other, and these rankings are fairly consistent across cultures.

Who holds the Power?

More attractive people, those who are above average in height, extroverts who exude confidence, and those with seniority, tend to be allocated more status.

The outcome of the ranking process has a determining effect on who can influence a group. Higher status members are looked at more often, are given more time to speak, are addressed more often, and are less likely to be interrupted.

According to research, the larger the group is, the more unequal the team’s discussion between members becomes.

For example, in a three-person group, the individual with the highest status will control about 47 percent of the group’s time, the second about 30 percent, and the third about 23 percent. As the group gets larger, the highest status individual will continue to control around half of the conversation, with the remaining 50 percent split between everyone else. So, in a group consisting of eight or more people, there will be some members who hardly contribute, if at all.

Elevate your influence

Clearly these dynamics present a significant challenge for everyone involved. Both team leaders and meeting participants may sense inequalities but not know what to do about it.

As an individual, it’s important to take your power back if you feel your contributions are being dismissed. You may not walk into a meeting with credentials that prove a high level of expertise, or a job title that automatically affords you authority, or even a physical appearance that exudes high status.  However, there are things you can do to increase your perceived status.


  • Share your specific expertise: You may not know everything or have all the answers, but there are areas where you have value to offer. Don’t hold back!
  • Honour your track record: You have experience to offer in areas where you have prior achievements in similar situations to what the team is facing.   
  • Use your transferable experience: You may be new to this particular situation, but you probably have skill sets from other scenarios that can be applied.
  • Speak with clarity and confidence: This will be interpreted as competence and intelligence.

A person’s relative status within a group has a significant impact on their ability to contribute. If you are in a position of leadership, it’s important to disrupt and evolve status patterns so everyone feels properly included.

As well, this can result in more shared resources, fresh ideas, and win-win results for you and your team!

To Your Fit Brain & Fit Life,