Wolf Pack Leadership Explained with Examples

Editorial Team

It is pretentious and ignorant to think that human beings are the only creatures who live with a perfect social structure. If you keenly observe a wolf pack, you will quickly realize that ideal leadership structures also exist in the animal kingdom.

A wolf pack is a group of wolves that have united to protect each member. Every single wolf gets assigned a unique position in the pack like every family member would. A wolf pack exhibits traits that human beings can copy. Therefore, wolf pack leadership has been used to illustrate how a team or organization with different people assigned different roles can function.

Wolf Pack Leadership

Wolves live in a hierarchical structure whereby every member of the pack has an assigned role. Within a pack, there are alpha wolves. These are one male and one female who leads the entire pack. They get to enjoy certain privileges, such as feasting on prey before the other pack members. Next in line are the beta wolves. They take charge of the pack in the absence of the alpha wolves since they are second in command.

There is also an enforcer who ensures all pack rules are enforced and is in charge of security by managing the pack’s protection. In instances where the pack is large, there are subordinates who are the older offspring and aged wolves. A pack may also have unrelated packmates but who become part of the pack, and they are known as familiars. There are also pups; who are not assigned any roles until they reach the age of sexual maturity and an omega wolf. An omega is a fully submissive wolf who is in charge of caregiving. They also act as the social glue of the pack. They facilitate peace by promoting play sessions and calming the other wolves when conflicts arise.

Comparing Leadership in Human Teams and Wolf Pack

Human beings work excellently in groups and across different territories, just like wolf packs.  A pack of wolves can have between 4 to 30 wolves. They also work across large territories that could range from 25 miles to hundreds of square miles. Similarly, most organizations are divided into teams that are expected to work together to achieve assigned tasks. The teams may be located in the same office space or may be working remotely in different locations all over the world. The team might also be as small as five people or have over 150 people. However, the systems are aligned in such a way that they are able to work together, everyone knowing their role. This brings us to our first comparison:

  • Assigning of Roles

For an organization to run successfully, every team member has an assigned role, just like every wolf in the pack has a role they play. In a wolf pack, the hierarchical structure often changes as the pack matures and the members change. Birth, death, and mating of the pack members allow for their roles to change with time. However, even with the pack’s fluidity, they always ensure that a member occupies each role for the smooth running of the pack. In the same manner, most team members have assigned formal titles and roles. The labels may differ from organization to organization, but some are common in most. These are the resource investigator, coordinator, monitor evaluator, planner, and quality control. While the roles differ from those in a wolf pack, each role is crucial for the team’s success.

It is also important to note that the defined roles allow each team member to work on their own and independently but also respect and follow the group rules and what the structures dictate. Divided tasks also ensure that the pack is organized.

  • Fluidity

While the hierarchical structure among the wolves is fluid in that their positions and roles change as they mature, this is not the case in most organizations. Once someone has become a CEO, in most cases, there is a lack of fluidity whereby the positions do not change quickly, and if they do, it takes time.

The CEO culture and mentality that we see in most organizations is also a leadership tactic that we can observe in a wolf pack. A wolf pack is ordinarily not vulnerable to disruptive attacks since the alpha ensures that the pack is protected from impending danger.  Similarly, a leader is expected to work to ensure that the possibilities of disruption in the organization are minimal.

Loyalty and devotion to the group are very important to a pack and bind the wolves together, even when food is scarce or they are facing any danger. For example, since the pups are the youngest and generally considered defenseless, the alpha always ensures that they have eaten to their fill before the other wolves get to dig in.

  • Communication

Research has shown that wolves are generally excellent communicators. Their primary mode of communication is through body language. They can express their emotions to each other or warn each other of looming predators using facial expressions and ear and tail positions. Their ability to communicate with each other is what helps the pack to stick together and live harmoniously.

The alpha wolves and, at times, the beta wolves walk with upright ears and tails. They also walk, oozing confidence to show that they are in charge. The other mid-range and submissive wolves tend to have their ears and tails tucked. They often roll over to expose their stomachs to the dominant wolves. The omega normally crouches and lowers its head whenever another wolf approaches.

Wolves are also excellent communicators vocally. They bark to alert each other of impending danger while howling indicates a celebration in the pack, greeting new wolves or gathering the pack together. Wolves whine to show affection, anxiety, or submission, and growling are to indicate aggression and showcase dominance.

Communication is critical in running human organizations, and great leaders need to be excellent communicators as well. Both verbal and non-verbal communication is vital in the smooth running and operations of a team. Research conducted on various groups has shown that the majority of the communication passed around is nonverbal. Communication-related to the tone of the voice takes second place while the actual words carry the least percentage. A leader who walks with their head held high is generally considered to be confident.  A great leader is also expected to be careful with how they talk and present themselves to the team. If their body language is rude and disrespectful, the rest of the team will be demoralized whether they use positive words or not.

To shape and sharpen their communication skills, wolves engage in a lot of play from the time they are pups. Play among pack members allows them to practice these skills in a safe content. Playtime also will enable them to exercise their visual and vocal communication skills. The games also encourage a competitive nature among the wolves, and leaders emerge and take positions of power in the pack.

  • Team enhancing activities

Human beings do not necessarily play as much as adults, but they engage in activities aimed to sharpen their skills while working as a team. Organizations organize team building activities to help the team members hone their skills. When team members engage in such retreats of activities, they can work on their communication as a team, and it is in such circumstances that leaders emerge.

  • Unity

Whenever one is discussing a wolf pack, you cannot forget to mention the lone wolf’s myth. Sometimes when conflicts arise within the ranks, a wolf may be chased from the pack or leave on its own volition. By doing so, it becomes a lone wolf. Survival for a lone wolf is difficult because there is power in numbers. Although it is possible for a wolf to hunt for food on its own, it is much easier to do so as a team. The chances for success are also higher while operating as a team because they collaborate to take down their prey.

  • Teamwork

Similarly, when it comes to leadership, you cannot be a leader without followers. A leader will need to exist within a particular hierarchical structure.  A great leader will also recognize that it takes a team working together with the same goals in mind to achieve desired targets.

How a wolf pack travels and move around has also been used a lot to try and explain leadership. This has also caused controversy, with many people claiming that how the wolves move in a pack has been misrepresented. The first three to lead the way are the old and sick wolves. They set the pace for the pack, ensuring that no one is left behind. The next five are the strongest pack members that ensure that the pack is protected from an attack. The middle group is other members of the pack who are fully protected. The next five are also the strongest that protect the pack from the back. The last in the pack is the alpha. He is left behind to ensure that he has eyes on the whole pack. He is also able to ensure that the pack is on the right path. He is also ready to change the direction of the pack at any given moment in case of an attack. Researchers who believe this analogy argue that leadership is not about being in front and ahead of everyone but rather about taking care of the whole team.

However, others argue that the movement of the pack is not guided by the weak but rather by the strongest who go ahead of the other wolves to create for them a clear path in the now to follow. They further argue that this proves that a wolf pack is cooperative and not a dominant hierarchy, as portrayed in the first instance. They insist that leaders always lead from the front and that that is the only way to offer guidance to the rest of the pack.

Whatever the case is, human still learns a ton from the wolf pack. That a leader should always have the best interest of the whole team at heart, they should do this by setting an excellent example for the rest of the team to follow and succeed just like the alpha leads to create a clear path for the other. A great leader should also make sure that every member of the team is well taken care of. Ensuring that everyone is on the same page is key in ensuring that the team meets all the set goals.

Conclusion – How to Be a Wolf Pack in The Leadership World

To be a successful team, just like a wolf pack, every team member should have their assigned tasks and duties and play their role accordingly for the smooth running of the team. The functions assigned to an individual do not have to be permanent. They could often change to help people horn their skills and ensure that the team is in the hands of a capable leader. Changing the roles from time to time allows room for the evolution and personal growth of team members. Every person having assigned roles makes it easier for accountability purposes. Cooperation of the team from wherever in the world also becomes more manageable, and so does decision-making.   

It is essential to also keep in mind that your body language as a leader speaks volumes more than your words. Therefore, it is crucial that you lead by your actions/ body language and be vocal only for specific reasons. Teams that have perfected communicating through nonverbal cues tend to be more effective as they understand each other better.

Another great and important take away for human beings from the wolf pack is that it is vital to have playtime. As the saying goes, all work with no play makes jack a dull boy. Play does not have to be literal. Teams can engage in fun activities that help them sharpen their skills. These include retreats and any other team building activities such as ropes courses.