Ultimate takeaways from our series of brief accounts of leadership behavior among non-human critters can be summarized as follows:

  • Behavior that looks like leadership and followership is always aimed at helping the group (the hive, the flock, the herd, the pride, the community) survive, reproduce, and adapt to a challenging environment.
  • Special individuals within a particular species may be singled out for behavior that looks like leadership because they are more powerful, more capable of protecting others in the community from danger, and more capable of passing on their genetic inheritance to the next generation.
  • Special individuals who are expected to act like leaders often attain their status as the alpha through some kind of direct competition with other potential alphas. In mammal species, the dominant alpha is generally a male who thus attains greater access to potential mates and thus greater impact on subsequent generations.
  • The most successful species supplement physical competition for dominance with collaboration through reciprocal communication and exploratory research backed up by intelligence and curiosity. Collaboration, communication, and exploratory behavior all reflect greater brain size than less complex species.