Leadership books and programs sell. Conduct a quick search for “leadership” on Amazon and it turns up hundreds of thousands of results. All kinds of different programs abound: From youth to managerial staff, people spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on conferences, workshops and courses promising behavioral changes that will help make them become better leaders. The thing is, despite an abundance of leadership materials, humans aren’t the very best leaders on this planet.
According to Discover News, Nov. 9, the world’s animal kingdom touts much better examples of leadership than could ever be found in a book or conference (let alone our heads of state).
A study published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution took a transdisciplinary approach to studying leadership. Their goal was to figure out what specific factors really make good leaders.
Researchers found that human leadership isn’t more complex than it is with other mammals. The study revealed more similarities than people might want to admit. Human leaders, along with other mammal leaders, share thought processes in regards to government, power, how alliances are formed and how decisions are made. However, not many of the human leaders in power can command the same kind of widespread respect as some of the more impressive leaders in the mammalian domain.
In many cases, animals studied in the leadership survey received the full support of the animals they led. Often their position was based on experience. For example, elephants, one of the most impressive species when it comes to leadership roles, weren’t headed by animals who had conquered the rest of the herd, but instead by a beloved and revered matriarch who had gone unchallenged because of her amount of experience. When she became older, maybe a little slower and forgetful, the next most experienced female elephant took her place.
Researchers used many markers to determine similarities and differences in human and other mammalian leadership tendencies. Their study answered the following questions (and more):
- How does one become a leader?
- Is leadership shared and how is it shared across the group?
- How much power do leaders hold over the rest of the group?
- Do leaders receive more resources due to their position?
- Do leaders take charge of more than one of their group’s needs?
This study about animal leadership only scratches the surface in finding the most universal and effective leadership strategies. Researchers hope to delve deeper and pinpoint specific traits that are key for mammal leaders.