Professor in Evolutionary Psychology, Work and Organizational Psychology


Leadership and status

The evolutionary origins of leadership and followership (2006)

Van Vugt, M. (2006). The evolutionary origins of leadership and followership. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10, 354-372.



Drawing upon evolutionary logic, leadership is reconceptualized in terms of the outcome of strategic interactions among individuals who are following different, yet complementary decision rules to solve recurrent coordination problems. This article uses the vast psychological literature on leadership as a database to test several evolutionary hypotheses about the origins of leadership and followership in humans. As expected, leadership correlates with initiative taking, trait measures of intelligence, specific task competencies, and several indicators of generosity. The review finds no link between leadership and dominance. The evolutionary analysis accounts for reliable age, health, and sex differences in leadership emergence. In general, evolutionary theory provides a useful, integrative framework for studying leader-follower relationships and generates various novel research hypotheses.

Copyright © 2012– Mark van Vugt