This one’s for the lads and gents, maybe the ladies, too, if they’d care to eavesdrop on this man-to-man I’m about to lay down on the male readership.
So boys, how alpha are you? What does it mean to be “alpha,” a cut above, leader of the pack? How does one obtain the alpha essence? Other than climbing Mount Everest on hands and feet and wrestling a bear on the mountain’s peak, you can do a few things to prove yourself as a guy of high stature.
There are misconceptions though, sometimes ones that can confuse being a strong guy with being a jerk, which can prove very negative to how others see you, and will probably be unfulfilling for you in the long run.
So what does the leader of the herd do to show his strength? Protect others even before himself. This conflicts with media portrayal of the alpha male, which can sometimes use others close to them for his own gain, seemingly tapping the spirits of others to elevate his.
Using women and destroying those below him seems pretty destructive to the interests of the group (or in a more practical wording, community). While the alpha may be a highly competitive beast who fights for things once in a while to stay on top, once he leads the pack, he holds empathy for the other beings in it as well.
Moving away from the animal side of things, no leader in the modern world gets around by knocking everyone else around him down. Even the baddest of dictators had their supporters. To expand the concept of social dominance beyond that of top and bottom, we can look into the different ways people can get on top. You have your leaders, and then you have your aggressors; or, for lack of a better more-relatable word, bullies.
The biggest success in effective leadership is empowering and streamlining the efforts of a group, all for the sake of bettering everyone’s ability to accomplish his or her own goals. Every school has got its jerks, those guys who walk through the middle of the hallway, simply walking through others like it’s the coolest thing since looking away from explosions.
That doesn’t seem something admirable or to model after at all. If anything, that just seems like an angsty cocktail of ignorance and arrogance. Acting like that isn’t going to make others look up to someone. If anything, it’ll simply cause people to be more likely to be distrustful of that person, if they don’t turn against him right off the bat. Little annoyances like that can push us over the edge with our judgment of people. As opposed to a “hello,” a bump in the shoulder is a great way to seem like more of jerk than anything worthy of positive description. As “beta” as it seems, acting kind will actually get more people on your side over time, and there’s certainly strength in numbers, eh?
Obviously when it comes to being a better guy, we wanna be something others look up to, which can be confusing when things such as media portray alpha men as rough, tough guys who pulled themselves up by their jockstraps, won’t blink and give you all forms of physical playground punishment for looking at him the wrong way.
I think Teddy Roosevelt had it right when he said to speak softly and carry a big stick, meaning to show strength to defend what matters, but to offer friendship before fists. There’s a happy medium between pushover and stupid-level aggressor, and on that line lies the key to true leadership, true “alpha” behavior for others to follow.
Austin Czechowski is a sophomore at Cobleskill-Richmondville High School. Would you like A Word of Advice from him? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send him a letter to “Teen Talk: A Word of Advice,” C/O The Daily Star, P.O. Box 250, Oneonta, NY 13820. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/teentalk.