Call for Papers: Evolution and Biology of Leadership

Evolution and Biology of Leadership: A New Synthesis

Guest Editors:
Mark van Vugt – Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Chris von Rueden- Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond

Leadership is one of the most important research themes in the social sciences, permeating all scales of human cooperation, from intra-household decision-making to the management of complex organizations and states. Leadership is also a growing area of interest in the evolutionary and biological sciences, which are providing new insights into the emergence and dynamics of leader-follower relationships in human and non-human societies (Couzin et al., 2005; King et al., 2009; Smith et al., 2016). Greater integration of theory and method across the social and biological sciences can be helpful to inform future theory, research, and best leadership practice, which is a core aim of The Leadership Quarterly too (Antonakis, 2017).

There are some encouraging signs. Leadership scholars from the social sciences show an increased interest in the biological and evolutionary aspects of leadership (Colarelli & Arvey, 2015; Day & Antonakis, 2012; McDermott et al., 2016; Yammarino & Dansereau, 2011), looking, for instance, at how physical cues (e.g., height and faces) interact with context to affect the emergence of leaders (Kniffin et al., 2014; Laustsen & Bang Petersen, 2016; Stulp et al., 2013; Van Vugt & Grabo, 2015) or how reproductive biology affects leadership styles (Benenson, 2013; Ohlsen et al., 2013; Van Vugt & Spisak, 2008). Similarly, evolutionary psychologists and anthropologists are increasingly interested in how biological and cultural evolution have shaped leadership processes across the range of human social organization (Glowacki & von Rueden, 2015; Hooper, 2010; Price & van Vugt, 2014; von Rueden et al., 2014; Henrich et al., 2015; Spisak et al., 2015).

Furthermore, the methodological pluralism offered by a consilience between biological and social science perspectives opens avenues for exciting new tools for studying leadership and followership such as through agent-based models (Gavrilets et al., 2016), animal behavior studies (King et al., 2009; Smith et al. 2016), endocrinology (Bendahan et al. 2015; Sherman et al. 2015), neuroscience (Jiang et al., 2016; Lee et al., 2012), genetics (Arvey et al. 2006), and ethnographic comparison (Glowacki & von Rueden, 2015). Finally, an integration of insights can be a valuable asset in understanding leadership failure and improving leadership practice (von Rueden & van Vugt, 2016).

Against the background of a growing interest among (a) leadership scholars in the biology and evolution of leadership and (b) evolutionary scientists in the analysis of patterns of leadership in complex organizations, this special issue will bring together research at the cross-roads of leadership, biology, and evolution. As long as these contributions use an explicit evolutionary (biological) framework, they will be considered for publication. Topics that will be considered — for either empirical or theoretical contributions – include, but are not limited to:

1. Comparative approaches to leadership (e.g., animal behavior studies, phylogenetic analyses of leadership, comparisons between humans and nonhumans)
2. Theoretical models of leadership (e.g., agent-based models, evolutionary game theory, social network analyses, gene-culture coevolution, niche construction)
3. Anthropological studies of leadership (e.g., ethnography, archaeological data) – intra- or inter-society comparative case study designs would be highly desirable (Gerring & McDermott, 2007)
4. Neuroscience approaches to leadership (e.g., hormones, physiological methods, fMRI)
5. Psychological or behavioral economic experiments on leadership (e.g., economic games, priming studies that avoid demand effects)
6 .Genetic studies on leadership (e.g., twin studies, single gene studies, molecular genetics)
7 .Education and public policy papers (e.g., how can evolutionary and biological approaches contribute to improving leadership practice?)

Submission Process

Authors should submit their manuscripts from January 1st, 2018 but no later than the submission deadline of April 1st, 2018, online via The Leadership Quarterly’s EVISE submission system at

To ensure that all manuscripts are correctly identified for consideration for this Special Issue, it is important that authors select “SI: Evolution” when they reach the “Article Type” step in the submission process. Manuscripts should be prepared in accordance with The Leadership Quarterly’s Guide for Authors available on the journal web page. All submitted manuscripts will be subject to The Leadership Quarterly’s double blind review process.