Jake Van Heel, an 18-year-old Occupy Chicago protestor, says he wants corporate leaders to share their wealth.

But in Oliver Stone’s 1987 film, Wall Street, the film’s villain, self-centered stockbroker Gordon Gekko, famously proclaimed “greed is good.”

And when it comes to what quality people want in a leader, the quote may ring true. It’s supported by a study of Stanford University students published in this month’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Researchers found that leaders who are more generous might be regarded as ideal commanders only in situations in which there is little or no competition. In tough times, power-wielding leaders may be more desirable because they are viewed as better able to protect their group interests.

“I don’t understand why you would want someone greedy,” said Van Heel, a pizzeria host and active protester. “People are conditioned to try as hard as they can to get as much as they can. But if people were raised to think about helping other people, then we would get good leaders.”

The study involved nearly 200 participants.
Natalie Brunell

Medill News Service