Facial appearance plays a role in leader selection and some facial traits are more valued in certain contexts. Here, I examined associations between facial appearance and perceptions of leadership. In Study 1, male faces were rated for several traits and leadership ability under general, war-time, and peace-time scenarios. Masculinity was found to be favoured in war-time over peace-time, however, this association was diminished when controlling for dominance. In Study 2, cues to physical ability or cooperative personality were associated with different face traits. When subsequently asked to select the best leader for a physically competitive task, participants chose faces with the trait associated with physical ability. For a cooperative task, participants chose faces with the trait associated with cooperation. These data suggest that leaders may be chosen based on their visual characteristics because certain characteristics suggest that they possess abilities that make them well suited to lead in particular situations.