Being a leader entails lots of skills, knowledge and attitude to be able to support team members and peers effectively.

Researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBIOS) embarked on a study to find out the patterns of leadership existing among small-scale mammalian species, including animals and humans. The authors surprisingly found clues on being an effective leader among the members of the animal kingdom.

Leadership is an essential point of research among social and biological sciences; however, efforts to combine these within or across disciplines are scarce. Although theories of evolution may help aid such synthesis, further components are still required in order for a strong comparative model to ensue.

Difference in leadership can be determined via numerous factors such as ways on how to become a leader (emergence), the scope of leadership (distribution), the amount of power that leaders use on subordinates (power), whether or not the leader gain more or less than followers (relative benefit) and the manner with which a leader of one domain can lead another group (generality).

"A comparative framework based on these dimensions can reveal commonalities and differences among leaders in mammalian societies, including human societies," the authors wrote.

The authors of the study performed their investigation by studying leadership evidences in four disciplines including movement, conflict mediation within groups, food gathering and group interactions between groups. The domains reviewed were said to enable the researchers to classify leadership patterns in the five factors that differentiate leadership as discussed above.

The results of the analysis showed that leadership is commonly attained as humans and animals undergo experiences. However, exceptions to this finding point out to spotted hyenas and Nootka, which gained leadership by inheritance rather than through experiences.

Should human leaders be compared to other mammals, the power of the former may not be as robust at all. In other mammalian species, leadership is more likely intensified, with leaders that use more power over followers.

Corresponding author Jennifer Smith of Mills College in Oakland, California said that the similarities possibly emulate shared cognitive processes influencing dominance, subordination, compact creation and decision-making. Meanwhile, the difference may partially be justified by humans' inclination to take on more special social positions.

"Even in the least complex human societies, the scale of collective action is greater and presumably more critical for survival and reproduction than in most other mammalian societies," Smith said.

The study was published online in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution on Friday, Nov. 6.

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