1. the dominant male animal in a particular group. 2. among humans, a man tending to assume a dominant or domineering role in social or professional situations.
In popular human sociology, the term "alpha male" is often used to describe a set of social behaviors that men should pursue (modeled after chimpanzees, lions, and other mammal studies), to win maximum favor from their social group.
Human "Alpha male" Behavior
Among human men, alpha male behavior can be described as a combination of body language, presence, and social behavior which include;
Self-confidence, self-control, self-awareness, and independence;
A sense of identity, self-confidence, and self-respect.
Self-control, especially emotional self-control
Decisive - makes decisions
Strong work ethic and drive to succeed; a strong desire to produce, earn, and excel.
Hard worker. Does not shy away from challenge.
However, not driven. Doesn't let any one thing rule his life.
Strong desire to shape his environment rather than be shaped by it.
Resilient, in all aspects. This includes social jests, jibes, and outright confrontations from other members of the group. When teased, a successful alpha will not become defensive. Instead, he can brush it off and will usually laugh at himself.
Self-sufficient & non-needy;
Not afraid to say "no"
Humility. He's reasonably grounded, and aware of his mortality, and appreciates the fact that his status as alpha will likely not last forever.
Not a people pleaser. No neediness, or clinginess.
not being afraid of confrontations such as arguments
Strong or powerful;
Often strong or powerful in some way, whether it's based on physical aspects, skills, personality, presence, or some other perceptable aspect.
Can protect himself (rarely senselessly endangering oneself)
Brand. Human alpha males often have a unique 'brand' that distinguishes them uniquely from other males in the group. This creates interest, respect, and a sense of irreplacability.
Back story - as a part of the brand, alphas often have a unique & interesting history or life experiences
Privileges and Costs
Among primates, sex is the primary privilege of an alpha male. The alpha has primary access to the females of the social group.
However, alpha males have added responsibilities & risks...
They must keep their social group, including their supporting partners happy. For example, an alpha male is often supported by older males. If that support is taken away, they may lose their position.
High stress. Among primates, an alpha male has the same high cortisol levels as the lowest-ranking males in the coalition, because their position is continually tested. Alphas must continually watch their back- everyone wants their position.
In the animal kingdom, the alpha role is singular. Among primate groups such as chimpanzees, there is only one alpha male, and one alpha female. Similarly in a room full of humans, there can generally only be one person in the alpha position at that moment.
In most social groups, there is both an alpha male, and an alpha female.
In a coalition, the primary alpha is not always male. Bonobos, who are just as closely related to humans as Chimpanzees are, are matriarchal.
The alpha male is not always the largest or strongest physically- alpha male is a measure of social position.
An alpha male is not a bully
The alpha is not necessarily the most influential group of the society- sometimes older males (ex-alpha-males) have more influence than the alpha.
Scientific study In primate groups
In this fascinating look at the "alpha male," primatologist Frans de Waal explores the privileges and costs of power while drawing surprising parallels between how humans and primates choose their leaders. His research reveals some of the unexpected capacities of alpha males -- generosity, empathy, even peacekeeping -- and sheds light on the power struggles of human politicians.