You don’t need to look very far right now to find the word “alpha” used as a form of condemnation. But what if we’re getting the idea of “alpha” all wrong?
What if being “alpha” didn’t mean what people think it means? What if we redefined alpha rather than smashing it to pieces?
“Alpha bullies” and, just as often, “alpha males” can “no longer be tolerated” according to some writers. Sounds pretty bad, although the number of things that can no longer be tolerated seems to be quite long at the moment, and I’m not sure whether my intolerance can keep up.
I do suspect I’m not what most people would call “alpha”, if only because I was once called “intimidating” by someone who was in a stressful situation and my colleagues thought it was one of the funniest labels ever to be applied. Plus my neck isn’t thick enough.
But as I read the swathe of commentary about how toxic, dangerous and generally unacceptable “alpha” culture is, it’s not always entirely clear that the authors of drastic opinion pieces have taken the time to define their latest entry into the pejorative lexicon.
And then I have to stop and think (always dangerous) – what if being “alpha” didn’t mean what people are saying it means? What if we redefined (or, perhaps, properly defined) alpha rather than smashing it to pieces?
What if aggression, bravado and dominance are actually just a side-show and not the main game? Perhaps true “alpha” bears no resemblance to what it has become known for, and our goal is not to condemn it but understand it better?
But what if alpha was less about aggression, and more about protection?
What if it was less about bravado and more about bravery?
What if dominance wasn’t the centrepiece, but rather provision?
For as long as our stereotype of alpha remains in its current form, all we can really do is tell people what we’re against. Young men and women with more forceful personalities will take away the message that they are inherently broken and evil, full of intuitive characteristics to be abhorred rather than shaped.
Perhaps we should be careful we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Perhaps the alpha role isn’t what the current rhetoric wants to sell us.
Perhaps it just needs a better definition.