Professor in Evolutionary Psychology, Work and Organizational Psychology


Leadership and status

The origins and evolution of leadership

King, A.J., Johnson, D. D. P., & Van Vugt, M. (2009). The origins and evolution of leadership. Current Biology, 19, R911-R916.



How groups of individuals achieve coordination and collective action is a hot topic for researchers in the natural sciences, but until recently the role of leadership in this process has been largely overlooked. In contrast, leadership is arguably the most important theme in the social sciences, permeating all aspects of human social life: the election of Barack Obama, the war in Iraq, and the collapse of the banks are all high-profile events that draw our attention to leadership and followership. Converging ideas and developments across the natural and social sciences suggest that leadership and followership share common properties across humans and other animals, pointing to ancient roots and evolutionary origins. Here, we draw upon key insights from the animal and human literature to lay the foundation for a new science of leadership inspired by an evolutionary perspective. Identifying the origins of human leadership and followership, as well as which aspects are shared with other animals and which are unique, offer ways of understanding, predicting, and improving leadership today.


Copyright © 2012– Mark van Vugt