The alpha leader is a dying breed.

From start-ups to the Fortune 100, the world is changing. Alpha types often still run the show—but they are also a dying breed. ~Jeffrey Hull, PhD, author of Flex: The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World

As I walk the streets of Chicago with my dog, Lily, she is sure to let other dogs know that she is the alpha dog. So I have daily first-hand experience with the concept of alpha types. But in the world of leadership, as Hull points out, the alpha leader approach is a dying breed. It’s simply no longer effective in a fast-paced changing world.

I’m reading Jeffrey Hull’s book. It’s one of those books where I discover I’m highlighting nearly every word. The highlights are mostly a mark of enthusiastic agreement for something I too have been seeing happen over the past several years. The ground underneath us is shifting, and so too are the tenets of effective leadership.

Highlights from Flex

I’ll share with you just a few of my highlights from Hull’s book Flex: The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World.


There is an emerging recognition that people with less directive, less authoritative styles can be equally valuable and impactful in leadership roles. It’s a shift in mind-set from a goal-oriented, top-down figuration (alpha) to a growth-oriented, process-based one (beta). Beta leaders are in flux, always improving, and always aware of the need to disrupt the status quo.

Alphas want to win. Betas want to grow.

Beta means being comfortable in a state of constant growth, not aspiring so much to ascend the hierarchy and dominate from above, but to lead from anywhere, anytime.

Beta leadership is, at its core, about reciprocity. It parallels a cultural shift toward a shared economy. Just as many of us no longer have just one career, or even five, leadership is no longer about climbing a ladder to reach a pinnacle of success.

…less emphasis upon hierarchy and more of a sense of teamwork, reciprocity, and respect for the talent and expertise of everyone in the room.


I find this terribly exciting (of course I am a bit of a leadership theory nerd). It’s exciting because in the past leadership was authoritative (and in many instances, still is). One person made the decisions and the others were expected to follow. But this new shift, not only expects, it requires (or even demands) leaders to be engaged in collaborative decision making. Not only respecting alternative views, but relying on others to make decisions.

The organization really becomes an “organization” of talent and expertise that, collectively, becomes capable of flexing in an ever-changing world.

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