The Alpha Female: Leading from Behind
By Hana L. Al-Izzi
There are many existing theories about what the alpha female is and how she behaves. Many claim that the alpha female merely mirrors the alpha male with his charismatic, aggressive and manipulative characteristics. I however reject these theories instead endorsing the idea that the alpha female acts more like a lioness or a female elephant. This theory is far removed from what we traditionally associate with the term alpha and embraces traditionally female characteristics as part of leadership rather than repressing them.
The way the alpha female behaves within society and the way they behave in leadership positions mirrors the lioness in various ways. The lioness relies on interaction with the rest of the pride in order to gain knowledge and allow the whole pride to progress together. Facebook COO Sheryl Sanberg is a successful female leader we can look to who takes on a similar approach to leadership. She promotes openness and interaction with the workplace in order to hear as wide a range of views as possible and come to the best possible outcome. The alpha female like the lioness also appreciates the importance of sharing amongst the group you are leading. In the case of Sheryl Sanberg that would be sharing credit with colleagues and employees but other cases could include sharing resources and responsibilities. This is something the alpha male is not prepared to do, and is part of what makes the alpha female a more effective leader.
Compassion is an essential part of what the alpha female embodies and something we also see in the elephant matriarch. Elephants show compassion to members of their heard and are highly protective of them. It is important for the alpha female to show compassion because this is what sets her apart from the alpha male and makes her a more appealing leader. This type of compassion and sincerity endears a group to want to be led by the alpha female rather than the leadership being forced upon them. For a successful example of this in political life we can look to United States Senator Elizabeth Warren. Senator Warren has been praised for her ‘extraordinary leadership’ which is centred on her compassion for those she represents and the way she protects her herd (in this case the middle and working classes). This has allowed her to outperform her male counterparts.
It is this type of leadership that evokes real cultural change, allowing women’s position in society to evolve at a faster pace and pushes society forward leaving no one behind. It is for this reason than women should continue to emulate the leadership styles of the lioness and the elephant, pushing aside outdated gender roles and stereotypes, embracing female leadership styles and embodying the characteristics and techniques of the alpha female.
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