Universal and variable leadership dimensions across human societies

Evolution and Human Behavior Vol/Iss. 41(1) Elsevier Inc. Published In Pages: 397-414
By Garfield, Zachary H., Syme, Kristen L., Hagen, Edward H.


This study seeks to better understand different forms of leadership across non-WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) societies, and tests evolutionary theories regarding the qualities of leaders, their functions, and the costs and benefits they incur and provide as a part of their leadership. The authors assess the various aspects of leaders and leadership by coding 109 dimensions of leadership as represented in eHRAF World Cultures, using the Probability Sample Files, comprised on 60 cultures. By assessing the prevalence of each of these dimensions in the various cultures under consideration, the authors were able to ascertain some largely universal characteristics of leaders: that they 1) were judged intelligent and knowledgeable; 2) resolved conflicts; and 3) received material and social benefits. They also found that other dimensions varied by considerably group context (e.g., kin group leaders tended to be older), subsistence strategy (e.g., hunter-gatherer leaders tend to lack coercive authority), and gender (e.g., female leaders are more associated with family contexts). Further analyses showed that followers and leaders both benefited from leadership, and that shamans constitute a new brand of leader that both utilizes prestige and dominance in order to effectively rule.


Sample Used Coded Data Comment
eHRAF World CulturesResearchers' ownSource for text records
Probability Sample Files (PSF)Researchers' ownCultures under consideration

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:jacob.kalodner