Leadership in Small-Scale Societies: Some Implications for Theory, Research, and Practice

The Leadership Quarterly, 2015

13 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2015

See all articles by Christopher von Rueden

Christopher von Rueden

Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond

Mark Van Vugt

VU University Amsterdam

Date Written: November 1, 2015

Abstract

Leadership studies concentrate on large-scale societies and organizations with formal hierarchies, large power differences, and diverse membership. Much less is known about leadership in small-scale, homogeneous, and relatively egalitarian societies in which humans have spent most of their existence. We summarize the anthropological literature on leadership from traditional, small-scale societies in terms of (1) the functions and roles of leaders; (2) the traits and behaviors conducive to leader emergence and effectiveness; and (3) the motivations and incentives to assume leadership positions. We address how studies of leadership in small-scale societies inform theory development. By viewing leadership and followership in light of our evolutionary history in small-scale societies, we shed new light on outstanding questions in leadership research and on challenges for leadership practice.

Keywords: Leadership, Followership, Small-scale Society, Evolution, Anthropology

JEL Classification: D70

Suggested Citation

von Rueden, Christopher and Van Vugt, Mark, Leadership in Small-Scale Societies: Some Implications for Theory, Research, and Practice (November 1, 2015). The Leadership Quarterly, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2690906

Christopher Von Rueden (Contact Author)

Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond ( email )

28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, VA 23173
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/chrisvonrueden/home

Mark Van Vugt

VU University Amsterdam ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, ND North Holland 1081 HV
Netherlands

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