Monday, April 17, 2017

Alpha Leader or Bonobo? When drive, competitiveness and commitment are too much..

Given the high organisational costs to companies, has the aggressive, "alpha male style of leadership" had its day? Should companies be looking for alternative models of leadership?
As pressures increases, the "alpha’s leadership style" can move from constructive and challenging to one of intimidation and even abuse. In many instances, people working for alpha male leaders suffer from low morale, high absenteeism, high levels of stress and burnout and, not surprisingly, given their dysfunctional behaviour, companies run by destructive alphas can easily go down the drain.

Manfred de Vries, INSEAD Distinguished Professor interestingly writes about this and how the closest relative of Homo Sapiens is not the gorilla (known for its alpha male behaviour) but the bonobo, alias the pygmy chimpanzee, which is part of a matriarchal society. 

Humans share 98.7 percent of DNA with the bonobos which create, maintain, and use social networks to manage stressful conditions, in contrast to the alpha “fight-or-flight” behavior. There is a place for alpha-behavior in organisations which need the drive, competitiveness and commitment of leadership - however this must be balanced with models of leadership that connect, build and nurture. Once this balance is achieved, organisations like Amazon (named as one of the most stressful companies to work for) will discover that employees who work without fear can be driven to new heights.