Appearance & Charisma vs. Qualifications and Experience

Choosing leaders in almost every way is some form of a popularity contest. Whether it’s  the presidential election or a dozen boys choosing a leader while they’re trapped on an abandoned island, what someone looks like and how likable they are almost always plays a role in the final outcome of the vote. The Lord of the Flies is a novel about a group of young British boys that are left to fend for themselves after they crash on a deserted island in the Pacific Ocean. The boys in Lord of the Flies turned what was their most crucial decision in the entire book into a popularity contest without thinking too much about their decision and the consequences of it The boys did not choose the leader of their group based off of who was qualified but off of other criteria. These fictional characters are not the only ones who can fall victim to this -- it happens in real life as well. People choose leaders not based on their qualifications and experience but on their appearance and charisma.

After a short time on the island, one of the boys, Ralph, suggested that the boys vote for a chief so the group would have a leader that would be able to decide what the boys do next. The boys end up choosing Ralph but how they came to a conclusion so fast, considering everyone just met each other, is very interesting. A quote that captured this moment is “None of the boys could have found good reason for this; what intelligence had been shown was traceable back to Piggy, while the most obvious leader was Jack. But there was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: there was his size, and attractive personality, and most obscurely; yet most powerfully, there was the conch.” (22) At this point in time, none of the boys know each other well enough to know what the others are fully capable of doing and accomplishing as the leader. From the boy’s standpoint, it's obvious very early on that Piggy is intelligent and Jack seems fit to be a leader. However, it would seem as if they chose Ralph without much thought since the narrator says “None of the boys could have found good reason for this.” However, the narrator goes on to describe some of Ralph’s characteristics. “His size and attractive personality” are among the things “that marked Ralph out.” It would make no sense for the boys to choose Ralph over Piggy and Jack unless their criteria for choosing the leader was not based on who was qualified for it but on what they looked like and who they liked the most. Ralph was also in possession of the conch, who the boys associate with power when the voting process began. It is very clear that it was Ralph’s image that won him his role as leader. Also, the boys did not take Piggy very seriously because of how he looked. Piggy was described as the “fat boy” (7) after Ralph, who was described as the “fair boy” (7) for his British good looks and attractiveness. The boys also mistake his name for “Fatty,” (21) before Ralph tells them that his name is actually Piggy. Jack is not considered attractive either. According to the narrator, he is “tall, thin, and bony.” (20) He’s redheaded, and “his face was crumpled and freckled, and ugly without stillness.” (20) Considering the nature of the boys at the age they are, with most of them being twelve or younger, it is understandable to see why they chose Ralph over Piggy and Jack. In the mindset of an immature, pre-teenager, fat people are a joke and redheads are these evil, mean beings. Ralph is also a very good looking kid compared to the others who wanted to be the leader. Human nature explains why Ralph was chosen as it is normal for people, especially children, to gravitate towards who or what they consider attractive. Charisma is another one of Ralph’s traits and charisma is an important trait of a successful leader.

In the real world, attractive people, in general are more successful. Studies have proven that attractive people are hired sooner, promoted quicker, and are paid more than their co-workers than their less attractive co-workers. According to Daniel Hamermesh, professor of economics at the University of Texas, people who are considered attractive earn about 3 or 4 more percent than people who aren’t considered attractive with below average looks. A study published in Psychological Science showed that people played closer attention to people who are more attractive. One of the researchers said that this is because people are generally more motivated to pay closer attention to more attractive people because of curiosity, desire for friendship or a romantic interest, or social status. A quote from one of the researchers, Prof. Jeremy Biesanz, UBC Dept. of Psychology, is “Not only do we judge books by their covers, we read the ones with beautiful covers much closer than others.” This is similar to how the boys in Lord of the Flies chose Ralph as their leaders because it was not Ralph’s experience or intelligence that earned him the leadership role, it was his attractiveness that earned him the role.

Like attractive people, charismatic people are also very successful. Charisma is defined as “a personal magic of leadership arousing social popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure (as a political leader) and “a special magnetic charm or appeal.” Successful people are usually leaders that possess the quality of charisma. Charisma is necessary for success because, without it, it is harder for you to get the people around you to help you achieve your goals. Leaders are essential for humanity, and charisma is what drives people to those leaders. While a good leaders possess intelligence, experience, and qualifications for the task at hand, this is not necessarily the case for every charismatic leader. Donald J. Trump, the 45th and current President of the United States is very charismatic. However, prior to becoming the President, he had never run for office in any kind of capacity. Nonetheless, he was a very successful business due in part to his very charismatic, and somewhat charming personality. Donald Trump is a very controversial figure, and although he lost the popular vote against candidate Hillary Clinton, Trump still managed to persuade almost 63,000,000 people without having the slightest experience in the world of politics. A similarity can be drawn to Ralph in Lord of the Flies when Ralph was selected as the leader without much experience as being a leader. However, like Trump, Ralph’s charisma was one of the reasons why he was chosen to be the leader.

In conclusion, there are many examples of people getting ahead of others because of their attractiveness and charisma. In the real world, people tend to favor charismatic and attractive people and this is why these kinds of people are very successful. At the beginning of Lord of the Flies Ralph is successful because he looks powerful, strong, and has an attractive personality. It is not uncommon for charismatic and attractive people to have intelligence and experience, but more often than not, people who display their charisma and attractiveness are more successful. Usually, they are chosen to be leaders over people who are not.

Golding, William Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin: 2006

Stanger, Melissa. "Attractive People Are Simply More Successful." Business Insider.

"Rice study suggests people are more trusting of attractive strangers." Rice News.

Staff, Elite Daily. "Why Charismatic People Are More Successful."

Minton, Tam Warner. "The Charismatic Appeal of Donald Trump."

"Charisma." Merriam-Webster

Comments (7)

Javier Chueca Bosch (Student 2019)
Javier Chueca Bosch

With your essay, I really get into that and really is great and you give perfect arguments about your thesis. Really clear explained. However, you could have used examples such as schools or politics.

Javier Chueca Bosch (Student 2019)
Javier Chueca Bosch

With your essay, I really get into that and really is great and you give perfect arguments about your thesis. Really clear explained. However, you could have used examples such as schools or politics.

Larissa Pahomov (Teacher)
Larissa Pahomov

This really makes me think about the role of charisma in relation to leadership. I wonder if leaders ought to be charismatic in order to lead and, if so, in which leadership positions. I am also thinking about the extent to which charismatic leaders are or are not qualified and experienced. Would the combination of these three things make for a strong leader? When is a leader who is not charismatic more practical or logical? This really got me thinking about these complex question! —Ms. Tsacoyeanes

Carolina Ortiz-Lugo (Student 2019)
Carolina Ortiz-Lugo

I like the theme that you chose and after reading your thing I realized how true it is with people choosing leaders based on their looks or charisma. I think that it would have been interesting to use the school as your example in the essay since we work in groups and a leader is always chosen, but i think that your essay was pretty convincing on the topic.

Amado Alfaro-Allah (Student 2019)
Amado Alfaro-Allah

I think it was a fairly convincing argument that's interesting to read because its talking about how people like Donald Trump come into power is a mixture a chrisma and people who look like the best choice. I think that was a very good real world example. More example is beauty contests are based on look and appreance "Thus beauty contest"

Andrew Rodebaugh (Student 2019)
Andrew Rodebaugh

Um hmmm… So basically I do not 100% agree with your thesis I think that people do have more of a want to vote for people that are very enthusiastic but more specifically very enthusiastic about what they want in a leader if that means values or ideas. I honestly think that this could have used a less opinionated example when it came to the Donald Trump example but I think you picked the right quotes when it came to Lord of the Flies. Good job.

Ahmed Ahmed (Student 2019)
Ahmed Ahmed
  1. While I was reading the first paragraph of this essay, I kind of had an idea of what you were talking about. Then, when you listed the examples from the book, and the Trump analogy, I was convinced that charisma and attractiveness sways people to be a leader.
  2. There was one time in my Arabic school where we were given a whole class assignment. We had to choose one leader for the boys and one leader for the girls. There were two boys in my class who were running to be the leader and one I don't even think he's been to Sudan, he doesn't speak Arabic but he was kind, funny and good looking, as where the other lived in Sudan for 5 years, but isn't the most attractive, isn't the most funniest, doesn't know that many people but he had tons of experience. But the first boy was elected to be our leader which also helps prove your thesis.