Over the past few months I’ve been involved in or have been told about several conversations about individuals that are considered to be Alpha’s. These conversations were specifically about alpha males, so I’m going to talk about that specifically. The term alpha refers to someone that is “the leader of the pack” or in this case has some set of characteristics where they want to lead, take charge, be assertive or are confident.
When the topic comes up, there is often a very strong, negative reaction by many of the people in the discussion. When they hear the term alpha male, they think jerk, arrogant, asshole or some other equally derogatory term. And while the can often be true, it isn’t always.
The confusion comes when there is an assumption that being alpha automatically means acting in a certain way. And those ways are often not very well received. Despite that, there are traits of alpha’s that people like. People are often attracted to leaders, to confident people, and to to people that are courageous enough to put their authentic self forward.
What people don’t like is when the alpha does those at the expense of others or by putting them down. Confidence becomes arrogance. Leadership becomes control. Authenticity comes without regard for other people.
Being an alpha doesn’t have to be like that. The characteristics of being alpha can be expressed in responsible, caring, compassionate ways. It can be about leadership, not dictatorship. There is room for vulnerability and emotions.
Our society is terrible about teaching men how to do be alpha in a positive way. Instead, it tells men that vulnerability is a weakness. Emotions are something to be avoided. And when you aren’t in touch with your emotions, compassion isn’t an option. It teaches men that they need to win at all costs, make the most money, don’t show signs of weakness. And, unfortunately, that often gets translated into being a jerk.
There are alpha’s that are different. Alpha’s that see leadership as responsibility to others, not control. They know that before they can lead others they need to be in charge of themselves. The understand that part of leadership is care and compassion. And they know their emotions are a source of strength and they are strong enough to handle the emotions of others. And they know failure is not shameful but rather is an acceptable risk of trying to succeed.
We need to change the messages we teach males. We need more role models of men who are actually strong enough to be alphas without being bullies. And one thing we can do is realize that being alpha doesn’t mean being a jerk. Untying actions from personality is a step towards changing our expectations of alphas. And besides, being a jerk is really about being a jerk…nothing else.