El Jefe
Andrew Love
31

Hey Andrew, nice stuff. By any chance, have you read “The Secrets of our Success” by Joseph Henrich? Its a great relatively new work on how it is that humans become cultural creatures (and how and why our cultures evolve). One the deep insights is the distinction between two different sources of status hierarchy in humans. The first is present in all primates and he calls it “Dominance.” The Boss. Authority. Position Power. It is fundamentally based on threat of violence or harm.

The second is where it gets interesting. He calls it “Prestige”. This is where status is associated with the possession of valuable (and shareable) skills, insight, knowledge, practices, behaviours, etc. Prestige is the birthplace of culture — we use it to identify who to emulate and, thereby, learn from.

Notably, while Dominance is extractive and generates a response of avoidance (i.e., don’t make eye contact with the bully), Prestige is characterized by something like reciprocity. The high Prestige person must support and reward people coming close and learning (otherwise the value can’t be transmitted and they will lose their prestige.)

This is neat because if you combine the intrinsic logic of Prestige with tit for tat game theory — you get a reason to have some optimism that The Boss is a fading holdover from our past and this thing that you call A Leader is from (and to) the future.