If you want to be seen as a leader, you need to portray the right image to other people. And these days, it seems that having the right gadgets is as important as wearing the right clothes.
According to a new study published in The Journal of Product Innovation Management, being tech-savvy is a key attribute of the 21st century business leader.
"Familiarity with and usage of new high-tech products appears to be a common manifestation of innovative behavior," says Steve Hoeffler of Vanderbilt University, who co-authored the reseach with Stacy Wood of North Carolina State University.
"Those who are tech-savvy are also perceived as authoritative on other subjects and as leaders."
In one part of the study, interviews were taped using actors who were categorized by their appearance and other factors.
"We taped them once where they took down a note using an old-fashioned calendar, then did another one where they whipped out an electronic calendar and did it that way," Hoeffler said.
When test subjects viewed the interviews, they overwhelmingly viewed the actors using the electronic calendars as being more authoritative.
Another experiment used resumes which were all similar except for hobbies, which were varied to signal whether the subjects were tech-savvy or not. Again, these candidates came out ahead.
Intriguingly, the study also revealed that women benefitted more from appearing to be tech-savvy than their male counterparts.
"This finding runs counter to the backlash effect typically found in impression management research in business settings," Hoeffler and Wood write. "Female job evaluations typically suffer after engaging in the same self-promoting impression management strategies that benefit their male counterparts."
But if you're a retro die-hard who still prefers a Filofax to an iPhone, the news isn't all bad. In fact possibly the most important message to take away from the research is that appearances are far more important than real ability. In other words, actually being able to operate your iPad really isn't all that important, provided you know enough to look reasonably competent.
"Just possession is 90 percent of the game," Hoeffler said. "And there are maybe 10 percent of situations where you have to display ability to use it."