Are You an Alpha Leader?


Understanding and improving your leadership style will provide an encouraging and supportive experience for those you lead.

Alpha what? In many animal species, there is one dominant male. This animal makes all decisions about how their group is run and generally bosses others around. Whether it is the king of the apes or the lead dog in a pack, the one who rules over the others is known as the alpha male. Just as there may be alpha males within the animal kingdom, so there are alpha leaders within human teams.

​This kind of dominance has some positive attributes and some less desirable qualities. Assess your own alpha leader tendencies using the quick quiz below. If these tendencies describe you or someone else on your team, learn the positives, negatives, and balance that maximizes the qualities of the alpha leader.

You might be an Alpha Leader if:

  • You are so focused on the agenda for a ministry program that you fail to notice interested visitors.
  • You are the only one talking at your leadership meetings.
  • You make sure that the leader in charge of publicity is doing a good job by personally editing everything she does.
  • You cannot even spell the word DELEGATE.

Positives of an Alpha Leader

There are strengths that alpha leaders bring to the table. For example, the ability to give firm and clear direction is helpful in a crisis. What if you have been planning an annual fundraising event for months and at the last minute you are told that the facility is not available? Everyone will be looking to you for guidance; your decisiveness will give others direction and perspective. A strong sense of self and the confidence to lead others draws alpha leaders into positions of leadership. But with these leadership strengths, comes a need for balance.

Pitfalls of an Alpha Leader

  • Lack of communication within your team. Since an alpha leader does not tend to solicit input, team members are not likely to offer new ideas. 
  • Lack of community within your team. Alpha leaders are typically more concerned with tasks than people. This can make team members feel insignificant.
  • High turnover in leadership positions. Since no one else can do the job as well as the alpha leader, other leaders may just step aside from leadership.

Maximizing the Potential of an Alpha Leader

Here are a few tips to help turn the pitfalls into alpha positives on your team:

  • Delegate, delegate, delegate! Demonstrate trust in others’ ability to do the job. Resist the urge to take back an assignment.
  • Provide lots of praise and encouragement. Go out of your way to send thank you notes to your team members for a job well done.
  • Be flexible. Be open to new ideas from your team even if you like the current processes. Who knows—the new way may be even better!
  • Ask others for opinions and feedback. Reach out to a fellow leader and ask for his or her thoughts on how you are doing and what you could be doing better.

​Understanding and improving your leadership style will provide an encouraging and supportive experience for those you lead—and they won’t need to be afraid of the leadership animal that they encounter!

Written by Nikki K. Kerzic

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