Alpha male or true leader

Alpha Male Culture and the search for greater wellbeing.

Alpha male or true leader

In society we still celebrate the idea of the alpha male, but do our health statistics tell a story we should pay attention to, a story about a model of man that is hurting and broken?

To put this in context, suicide is the leading cause of death in men under the age of 45 [i] and “men are less likely to seek help than women, with only 1 in 4 men who experience anxiety or depression accessing treatment”.[ii] Prostate cancer rates now surpass those for breast cancer[iii] and men are more likely to die of cancer, heart disease and diabetes at an earlier age than women[iv].

With all this in mind it seems important to consider our model of man and whether our choice of role models and aspirations for masculinity hurts us. I'd like to highlight and celebrate another version of male behaviour, that of the 'true man' who is by that very nature a true leader. Is it time to discard our love affair with being Alpha Male?

You might say Alpha Male is a great quality to have, but this is a limiting way to live and interact. This is not to say we can't be strong, only that there is perhaps much more we can be than an Alpha Male. Let us look at the difference between Alpha Male traits and the behaviour of someone who is a True Leader.

Alpha Male Traits True Leader qualities
Dominates situations and others as a form of protection Inspires others to contribute, supports others to lead
Aggressive, physically and / or psychologically imposing Builds relationships and appreciates others, open and caring
Has to be in control Shares and supports, responding to the call
Driven by testosterone; driven by the recognition of being a man who stands above others and gets what he wants Guided by what is needed, inner strength – cherishes both male and female aspect of his being
For the select few, survival of the fittest Considers the all; everyone can be a true leader and never at the expense of another
Has to be in control, often through bullying or manipulation Never talks down and encourages others to shine
Identified with being a strong male and playing the image of indestructible Understands a different form of strength that comes from within – shares his own fragility and knows that is a huge part of that strength

Alpha Male traits are soaked in testosterone and when this is the fuel for our actions, it hurts us as men, for it is not a true reflection of our sensitive nature. When we are driven by testosterone and we are not nurturing ourselves, it is a form of toxic masculinity. We are driven to prove ourselves through how we live, measuring, striving, coping! Herein lies one of our greatest problems, the ideals around male behaviour, which leave us believing being driven to perform in this way is positive. Yet our statistics are showing us we need a new model; a nurturing, caring, supportive model that doesn't domineer or control, yet is very in control of one's own senses.

Such a model can be supported by more men honouring their sensitive nature, who through that connection become true leaders and give other men the permission to live that way too. Not the false metrosexual male that has been touted as the new man, for this is just an irrelevant smokescreen to the innate qualities we all hold. For being a true man has nothing to do with the ability to shop or groom with detail.

- A true leader is a man who is sure of himself, cares to build relationships with other men, to invite them to be equally tender and live in self-assured awareness. This man sees the strengths in others and can celebrate them; is so sure of his own qualities he doesn’t need to dominate, compare or degrade.

- A true leader pulls other men to be more tender through the balance of his strength and gentleness and the comfort in his own skin – discarding errant masculinity and being a safe haven for other men to unburden themselves of the shackles of toxic masculinity and revert back to the male qualities we held as little boys: gentle, considerate, endearing – light, playful and funny. Qualities that could serve us well.

- A true leader sets the example – by being open, transparent and heartfelt and not in need of displaying steeliness or a robust nature. He can be fragile and vulnerable; this is not a weakness, but the greatest form of courage, honesty and strength.

- A true leader can gently rebuke, deftly lift, change lives by the manner of his own life and the firmness of being himself with no act or front.

- A true leader has the impulse of love, true care for fellow men and only the deepest respect and love for women.

- A true leader doesn’t look to prove himself to his mates or adhere to societal ideals, only aligning himself with what feels true as a role model to allow other men to do likewise.

- A true leader is a lighthouse, an inspiration for other men to celebrate the natural qualities we as men were born with.

We each have our own strengths and all have the capacity to lead and inspire fellow men. Surveying the scene of men suffering disease and suicide, it would seem now is the time to be courageously the gentle man for all. We should not be swayed by the model of toxic masculinity that controls, represses and subverts, but instead be willingly open and gently revealing of our own tenderness.

If an alpha male operates in one dimension, then a true leader is the multidimensional Universal Man that we all can enjoy being, with nothing to prove but so much to give.

*for the purposes of this article we are talking about men: women are of course great and ‘true leaders’ also.

  • [i]

    Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Cat. no. (4326.0). Canberra: ABS.

  • [ii]

    Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2016). Causes of Death Australia 2015, preliminary data. Cat. no. (3303.0). Canberra: ABS.

  • [iii]

  • [iv]

Filed under


  • Photography: Joseph Barker

    To sketch, paint and question life. To cook, laugh and wonder why. To hug, hum and appreciate the sky, to look into another's eyes. These are some of the reasons Joseph loves life and is inspired to contribute to this amazing site.