A Comment on the Service-for-Prestige Theory of Leadership




Commentary on:

The evolution of leader-follower reciprocity: the theory of service-for-prestige by Price, M. E., and van Vugt, M. (2014). Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8:363. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00363

Successful collective action often depends on the presence of leaders, who bear greater responsibility than other group members for the logistics of coordination, monitoring of effort, and reward and punishment. Leaders may be expected to shoulder more risk, are vulnerable to retaliation from sanctioned group members, and suffer greater reputational damage from failed collective action. What then motivates individuals to be leaders? From an evolutionary perspective, the answer is not straightforward since most of human history occurred in societies lacking significant disparities in material wealth and institutions that grant leaders coercive power. One possibility is that group members share costs by distributing leadership roles over iterations of collective action. However, this is uncommon where inter-individual differences in leadership ability have an impact on collective action. Whether in small-scale egalitarian societies or large-scale stratified societies, group members typically prefer leaders who are superlative in traits such as physical size, knowledge, and prosociality (von Rueden et al., in press).

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Refer to Dr. Christopher von Rueden's website for further information.

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2014 von Rueden. This article first appeared in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8 (2014), 412.