Rio Chama Publications

2 minutes reading time (316 words)


Blog48AThe Leadership Quarterly recently published a research paper written by Mills College biologist Dr. Jennifer Smith and her colleagues entitled “Obstacles and opportunities for female leadership in mammalian societies: A comparative perspective.”

Even though there have been many efforts to narrow the gender gap in our human leadership roles, women continue to be underrepresented. However, by studying behavior patterns of animals, four domains were identified: emergence, distribution, power, and payoff.  In a current study of non-human mammals, females consistently lead in conflicts in at least two of these major contexts. For example, in the lives of whales, lions, spotted hyenas, lemurs, and elephants, female leaders emerge without coercion, and followers benefit from the social support and/or ecological knowledge of female elders. 

Here are some observations about female leadership in the wild:

  • Female leaders most often emerge within families and egalitarian groups, such as lions and elephants.
  • Strong female leaders are prone to emerge when females form cooperative units, as bonobos and spotted hyenas do.
  • Female leaders frequently serve as important repositories for knowledge—e.g., leading group members to food sources and away from danger.
  • Strong female leaders seem more likely to emerge in species for which conflict management within groups is vitally important, as seen with spotted hyenas.

Blog48BConsidering leadership among animals is an innovative approach to learning a great deal more about human female leadership. Reading about specific species provides information that may well improve human leadership. For example, in reading about deer (which are numerous where I live), I discovered their qualities translate to: gentleness; the ability to move through life and obstacles with grace; being in touch with an inner child; innocence; being sensitive and intuitive; vigilance; the ability to change directions quickly; a magical ability to regenerate; and being in touch with life’s mysteries. Needless to say, I learn a great deal from deer as I contemplate their essence. 

Dear reader, do you have a special animal you relate to? If so, what have you learned about life and yourself through your connection to that creature? Can you think of how that connection might influence your role as a leader? All comments are very welcome! 


Related Posts



No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Captcha Image

Search Blog