Alpha Male and Female Leadership: Why It’s Time to End the Myth and Change Our Approach

The days of the alpha male and female in leadership are coming to an end. For decades, society has revered leaders who exhibit dominant, controlling, and aggressive behaviors as the ones who know how to get things done. Leaders have romanticized these traits in business strategy, politics, and even entertainment. But the shift toward a more diverse, collaborative, and flexible approach to leadership is reshaping how we think about what makes an effective leader. In this article, we will explore why it’s time to end the myth of alpha males and females. We want to change the approach to leadership toward a more inclusive direction.

Busting the Myth of Alphas

The concept of the alpha male comes from studies of social hierarchies and behavior in certain animal species, particularly in wolves. Researcher L. David Mech in the 1970s created this concept based on his observations of captive wolves. However, the idea of the alpha male has been somewhat misconstrued and oversimplified over the years.

Here’s a brief overview of where the concept originated and how it has been applied:

  1. Wolf Pack Observations: Mech’s research on captive wolf packs suggested the presence of a dominant “alpha” wolf at the top of a hierarchical structure within the pack. This alpha wolf was thought to be the leader, exerting control over the other members of the pack through aggression and dominance.
  2. Misinterpretation and Popularization: Business writers and the general public mistakenly applied the concept of the alpha male to human behavior.  The idea of the alpha male as a dominant, aggressive, and competitive individual became a common trope in discussions of masculinity and social hierarchies.
  3. Criticism and Re-evaluation: Subsequent research on wild wolf behavior challenged Mech’s original findings. Mech himself realized that the alpha wolf as a dominant, aggressive leader didn’t accurately represent the social dynamics of wolf packs in the wild. Instead, wolf packs were found to be family units led by a breeding pair, and the term “alpha” was often misused.
  4. Human Application: Despite the criticism and reevaluation of the concept in wolf behavior, the idea of the alpha male persisted in discussions of human behavior and masculinity. Self-help literature, pick-up artist communities, and discussions of social dominance reinforced it.

New approaches to hierarchy research

In recent years, scientists recognized that human behavior is far more complex than the simplistic alpha/beta dichotomy suggests. A wide range of factors influence human hierarchies, including culture, context, and individual personality traits. Moreover, the observations of wolf behavior have been widely misapplied and simplified in discussions of human behavior. As a consequence, the myth of alphas reinforced harmful stereotypes and promoting toxic masculinity.

To know (and laugh) more about why alpha male and female leadership is a myth check out this video!

What do People mean when they talk about Alphas?

Generally speaking, we observe two main types of descriptors of the alphas in the business world. The more positively perceived alpha is taking charge of a situation, staying dominant in front of teams, speaking with a clear and loud voice, giving clear directions and orders, and seemingly having an answer to every challenge. He is the senior patriarch who runs a family business in the nth generation of males, steering them through a history of wars, poverty, sickness, and fierce competition. He is the father and husband who works hard, appears cold and calculating, and disciplines his children and wife as he is the one and only head and master of the family. While he uses a lot of masculinity in his behaviors, he also sometimes shows a softer, more vulnerable, even loving side when he feels at ease.

The dark side of alpha types.

The other type of alpha is the locker room type, who overly exudes masculinity. He is the one who needs to call the shots. The locker room guys who pump themselves up, speak loud and proud about their dominance over women, men, and weaklings. They make themselves feel good and worthy by bullying others, dominating others in various situations, and making others smaller. They are in constant competition with others, exemplifying toxic masculinity, bullying, brushing off, speaking over others, showing a lack of empathy, looking down on women.

The Disadvantages of Alpha Male and Female Leadership

The traditional, alpha-driven approach to leadership has several disadvantages. One of the primary disadvantages is that it often creates an oppressive and demotivating work environment. When leaders exhibit extreme aggression and dominance, they tend to suppress other voices, creativity, and innovation in their teams. Additionally, alpha-driven leadership tends to prioritize individual ambition over the collective good of the team and organization. This can ultimately lead to weak team cohesion, low job satisfaction, and high employee turnover.

The Benefits of Collaborative and Inclusive Leadership

Collaborative and inclusive leadership places a higher value on collective efforts and teamwork. Leaders who adopt this approach prioritize developing relationships with their teams that are built on respect, trust, and open communication. This approach encourages team members to voice their opinions, share their ideas, and contribute to the collective goals of the organization. By valuing everyone’s contributions, leaders can create a more innovative and productive work environment that is highly motivating for everyone involved.

Women Leaders and the End of Alpha Females

For decades, society have expected women to adopt alpha behaviors to compete with men and be successful. However, the growing number of women in leadership positions is proving that the old stereotypes are no longer valid. Women leaders are proving that they can be successful by adopting a more collaborative and inclusive approach to leadership, which is creating a more diverse and equitable work environment. The success of these women leaders also highlights the need to create opportunities and equitable systems that allow women to thrive and assert their leadership qualities in any field.

The Rise of Emotional Agility as a Needed Leadership Quality

Emotional agility is the ability to navigate your emotions and respond effectively to the challenges and opportunities in life. It involves recognizing, accepting, and adapting to your feelings, rather than suppressing or avoiding them. This has become more critical than ever, given the complexity of the current global landscape. Leaders who can exhibit emotional agility can communicate effectively, build relationships, manage conflicts, and create a positive work environment. In a collaborative and inclusive leadership model, emotional agility skills are critical. Indeed, they help leaders motivate team members, build trust, and create a positive work environment.

The Role of Leadership Development Programs in Shaping the Leaders of Tomorrow

Leadership development programs are essential tools for creating effective leaders who can adapt to new roles and challenges. Indeed, effective leadership development programs should incorporate promising practices that focus on developing inclusive and collaborative leadership skills. These programs should prioritize cultivating emotional agility, problem-solving skills, and communication skills. By developing the next generation of leaders with collaborative leadership models, organizations can reap the benefits of having a more diverse and inclusive workforce.


In conclusion, alpha male and female leadership behaviors have been a pervasive focus for decades. Therefore, it is time to bust the myth of the concept and shift toward collaborative and inclusive leadership. Leaders who prioritize collaboration and teamwork over dominating behaviors can create a healthier, more productive work environment for their teams. Additionally, the rise of emotional agility as a leadership quality highlights the importance of creating leaders who are equipped to communicate, problem-solve, and create a positive work environment. Also, we emphasized the need for equitable systems and opportunities that allow women to thrive and assert their leadership qualities in any field. Effective leadership development programs designed to cultivate collaborative skills provide a critical pathway for the next generation of leaders. By adopting these strategies, organizations can better prepare their leaders for success in the rapidly changing global landscape.

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