The Importance Of Height For Leaders Throughout History

My most recent post about the heights of the presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama made me want to make  few more remarks on the issue of height for world leaders, the people who make the big decisions and shape the evolution of human kinds.

Throughout history, leaders of nations have tried to make themselves appear just as big as the amount of power they wield in the office. For the male leader, it may be a very psychological element to think of himself as not just strong, but also big.

Most people would think that their leaders are tall, and larger than life. However that doesn’t seem to be the case for many nations these days. As we have seen time and time again, some of the greatest most influential leaders in history has been people who were on the short side.

Alexander the Great, Atilla the Hun, Napoleon Bonaparte, Deng Xiao Ping, Joseph Stalin, and even Hitler has all been either noted to be or rumored to have been on the short side.

Recent leaders and presidents like Nicholas Sarkozy, Dimitri Medvedev, Angela Merkel, Silvio Berlusconi, Vladimir Putin, François Hollande ,  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Margaret Thatcher have all been much shorter than the average citizen of their countries would have believed. In general, besides the current USA and UK leaders, most other countries that I can think of have leaders that are low in stature.

However, this does not mean that they are just going to let other people see them in a negative unappealing light though. Many past and present leaders have created an image and used PR campaigning to make themselves appear bigger than they really are. Let’s remember that the previous French president Sarkozy at 5′ 5″-5′ 6″ was rumored to have worn lifts or high heeled shoes to make himself look bigger because the french press joked about his size and to put him closer to his wife Carla Bruni’s height. She was said to have also been only allowed to wear flats to not overwhelm his presence. The current russian president Putin is also said to only put himself in situations where his real height can not be judged properly. The late Chinese Chairman Mao was also rumored to have used his PR people to claim he was 5′ 11″ which was tall compared to the average Chinese during that era. So has the late Kim Jung Il who many people think is 5′ 3″ and has been reported to wear very high lifts so as not to appear so small compared to other world leaders in pictures.

From ABC News HERE

World’s Leaders Don’t Stand So Tall

By NICK WATT (@nickwattabc) and JENNA MUCHA
July 5, 2008

The giants of world politics are assembled in Toyako, Japan, for the G-8 summit this weekend, but while they may be big-time players, most of them wouldn’t stand out in a crowd.

Just one, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, breaks the 6-foot barrier. Five of the world leaders aren’t even 5’6″ tall.

President Bush can count himself among the more imposing of the heads of government: He’s 5’11”, and a nice pair of cowboy boots would easily lift him over 6 feet.

If John McCain is elected in November, the Arizona Republican won’t have to worry about talking down to most of his counterparts at these gatherings: At 5’9″ he is only a little taller than average.

Barack Obama on the other hand might make some of the other G-8 leaders uncomfortable. The Illinois Democrat would tower over them at 6’1″.

Among the leaders gathered this weekend, Russia’s little big man, President Dmitry Medvedev, brings up the rear at only 5’2″.

The G-8 host country Japan’s Yasuo Fukuda is only 5’6″, and Germany’s female Chancellor Angela Merkel measures in at only 5’5″.

Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi’s height is something of a controversy. According to most sources Belusconi is 5’5″. However according to, Berlusconi — often made fun of for his height and wearing platform shoes — once commented at a European summit, “Satirists describe me as a dwarf, but I am actually 170 centimeters (5’7″) tall. In my day that was considered quite tall.”

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France does all he can to disguise the four inches his former supermodel wife has over him. She wears flat shoes and he wears the heels, since he’s only 5’5″.

So why hide their true height? Are they scared of being called little Napoleons?

“Napoleon Complex is when short men overcompensate for being short by being overly aggressive,” said Steven Goldsmith, editor of Short Persons Support. The French emperor has been portrayed in movies such as the eponymous offering of “Napoleon” from 2003 as a feisty little fellow, going down in history as only 5’2″.

There are plenty of examples to back the theory that bears his name. One is former Russian dictator Josef Stalin, blamed for 20 million deaths, who was a mere 5’5″.

In Pyongyang, North Korea, Kim Yong Il’s height is a state secret. But the Cuban heels and bouffant hairstyle he wears aren’t fooling anyone, this leader is only 5’3″.

Now English psychologist Dr. Mike Eslea of the University of Central Lancashire has put the Napoleon Complex to the test, using a little game to measure aggression among tall and short men.

“You’re going to start giving them a little rap on the knuckles as a provocation to see how they react,” Eslea said. The subjects think it’s their dexterity being assessed, but actually it’s their aggression. “On the question of aggression I can tell you that the taller guys were more aggressive,” he said.

So, according to Elsea it’s actually a myth. History, too, provides enough examples to debunk it. Sure Josef Goebbels and Charles Manson were very short. But Saddam Hussein was 6’2″ and Osama Bin Laden, he’s 6’4″.

And it turns out Napoleon was really 5’6″. His enemies claimed he was only 5’2″. Could it have been propaganda?

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