Great leaders are often great communicators. However, little is known about the neural basis of leader–follower communication. Only recently have neuroscientists been able to examine interpersonal neural synchronization (INS) between leaders and followers during social interactions. Here, we show that INS is significantly higher between leaders and followers than between followers and followers, suggesting that leaders emerge by synchronizing their brain activity with that of the followers. Moreover, the quality rather than frequency of the leaders’ communications makes a significant contribution to the increase of INS. This result supports the “quality of communication” hypothesis in leader emergence. Finally, our results show that leadership can be predicted shortly after the onset of a task based on INS as well as communication behaviors.
In sum, this study found that leader emergence was characterized by high-level neural synchronization between the leader and followers and that the quality, rather than the frequency, of communications was associated with synchronization. These results suggest that leaders emerge because they are able to say the right things at the right time.