Ever wondered why bossy people get to become leaders? Well, a new study of North Atlantic barnacle geese has suggested that it happens because bossiness is the key to leadership.
The study, led by Ralf Kurvers from the Resource Ecology Group at Wageningen University in The Netherlands, found that when a "bold" goose was put in a labyrinth with another that knew the way, which was neither assertive or shy, it tended to make its own way - even though it did not have a clue where it was going.
When the bossy goose picked the wrong route, a dead-end, the bird that knew the way out would follow on a third of occasions anyway.
By comparison, ecologists found that when a "shy" goose was put in with the bird that knew the route, it would wait for its learned companion to make the first move, and they would both go the right way.
"In pairs the probability of waiting for the decision of an informed [goose] decreased with increasing boldness score of the naive individual, suggesting that bolder individuals have a greater influence over the outcome of decisions in groups," the Telegraph quoted the authors as saying.
However, when the ecologists repeated the experiment with four geese - three of which knew the route, and one which did not - the 'fourth' goose tended not to make the decision so much, even if it was bossy. Overall, the groups of four geese made better decisions than the pairs.
The scientists said this "highlights the need to study the expression of personality in larger, more natural groups".
Their study is published today (WED) in the journal Proceedings of The Royal Society B.