Evolution of leadership

Chabu elder with traditional skin hat

Evolutionary approaches to leadership are reinvigorating the field. Definitions of leadership within evolutionary frameworks emphasize leaders as individuals with a disproportionate level of influence within a group over the establishment of goals, within collective activities, in the monitoring of behavior, and in determining rewards and punishment. Leadership is a human universal, found in some form among every ethnographically studied population. Among leaderless groups leadership behaviors quickly emerge and immediately shape social hierarchies. Our evolved psychologies have been selected to facilitate leadership and followership in order to solve recurrent adaptive problems and leadership often emerges in response to group size and local necessity. Recently, a more unified, evolutionary, approach to leadership has emerged within the social and biological sciences incorporating findings on neural correlates, hormonal influences, psychological mechanisms, behavioral-ecological relationships, cross-cultural findings, and ethological foundations. This project aims to test evolutionary and other theories of leadership using data from the Human Relations Area Files in order to provide wider cross-cultural validation to established theoretical models. From these cross-cultural findings, we develop novel, systematic tests and conduct field research among small-scale societies. Currently, we are focusing on understanding the sociopolitical dynamics between traditional leaders and a relatively new system of locally elected, government mandated leadership positions among the Chabu forager-horticulturalists of Southwest Ethiopia.

Associated personnel

Related publications

PDF Garfield ZH and Hagen EH 2020. Investigating evolutionary models of leadership among recently settled Ethiopian hunter-gatherers. The Leadership Quarterly, 31, 101290.
PDF Garfield ZH, Syme KL, Hagen EH 2020. Universal and variable leadership dimensions across human societies. Evolution and Human Behavior, 41, 397–414.
PDF Garfield ZH, Hubbard R, Hagen EH 2019. Evolutionary models of leadership: tests and synthesis. Human Nature, 30, 23–58.
PDF Garfield ZH, Von Rueden CR, Hagen EH 2019. The evolutionary anthropology of political leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 30, 59-80.
LNK Garfield ZH 2017. Dominant Acts Expressed (Buss, 1981). Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science, 1-6.
LNK Garfield ZH 2017. Men’s Egoistic Dominant Acts. Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science, 1-3.
LNK Garfield ZH, Garfield MJ 2017. Women’s Prosocial Dominant Acts. Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science, 1-4.