The current contribution extends theorizing on leadership and the exploration–exploitation dilemma using an evolutionary perspective. A theoretical connection is made between the exploration–exploitation dilemma and age-biased leadership preferences for exploratory change versus stable exploitation. For the majority of human evolution our species was semi- or entirely nomadic and the trade-off between exploration versus exploitation had substantial physicaland experience-based requirements which align with leadership opportunities as moderated by age. Thus given the consistency and importance of correctly assigning leadership for the exploration– exploitation dilemma human evolution has likely selected for age-biased leadership endorsement. Across three experiments we find that younger-looking leaders are endorsed fortimes of exploratory change and older-looking leaders for stable exploitation. Further our results indicated that older leaders are endorsed for leading conservative exploitation of nonrenewable resources and younger leaders for exploration of renewable alternatives (i.e. green leadership). The results introduce an age-biased leadership endorsement hypothesis.
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