Exploring Distributed Leadership: A Leader–Follower Collaborative Lens

  • Marc Hurwitz
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Leadership and Followership book series (PASTLEFO)


Animals demonstrate a rich repertoire of social interactions including leadership and followership. In this chapter, I apply a leader–follower lens to a selection of fish and wolf studies to investigate three questions: (1) are centralized, distributed, or leaderless groups most common; (2) when do each occur; and (3) how is followership manifested? The analysis suggests that leadership and followership are mutual influence processes; individuals frequently switch between the two but they preferentially enact one or the other depending on the task and circumstance. Distributed leadership (DL) was more commonly observed than either centralized or leaderless groups in the species studied, perhaps because it confers a fitness advantage. Using a leadership–followership perspective revealed that: followership training was more effective than leadership training; training followers to lead resulted in a reduction in following; the outcome of failed leadership attempts on future behavior depended on individual phenotype; first followers had an outsized influence on decision-making; and leading desensitized fish to the actions of their followers. Finally, wolf studies failed to support dominance hierarchy theory, namely the theory that dominance relationships exist to demarcate leadership relationships.


Leadership Followership Distributed leadership Shared leadership Dominance hierarchy theory 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marc Hurwitz
    • 1
  1. 1.Conrad Business, Entrepreneurship, & Technology CentreUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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