After a few years of much-needed introspection, the modern and thoughtful beta-male has been kicked in the conkers and told to sod off. Donald Trump is the Leader of the Free World, The Rock is the world’s highest-paid actor, and the head coach of the England rugby team is known for making grown men cry.
As such, the man of 2017 is encouraged to have big muscles and an even bigger personality. Yesterday’s alpha male – with his power dressing and old-fashioned notions of masculinity – has somehow guffawed his way back into polite society. Now he’s everywhere, back in charge, boasting at the top of his voice. He’s a bit of a twat.
But, but, in amongst the preposterousness of this godawful jerk, is there anything we can learn from him? Any lessons we can take from the silverbacks that will serve mankind well without transforming all of us into massive bellends? Only one way to find out. Let’s analyse the alphas.
The Lesson: Own The Room
Not a day goes by when the world doesn’t feel punch-drunk by the sheer wattage of Trump’s style of presidency. Posturing, controversial and unapologetic, his critics will point out that he’s doing a great job of re-shackling men to a brand of masculinity that recently seemed threatened with extinction. But, believe it or not, there may be a few life lessons to take from the angry Cheeto.
“Determination, tenacity and decision-making are great examples of where alpha males excel,” says Dr Jane Cox, an internationally-renowned human behaviour expert. “They tend to walk tall, and good alpha males have a grace about them, and a charisma that immediately attracts attention.”
“Wannabe alpha males, on the other hand, will often overdo the swagger and the threatening behaviour to try and disguise their own discomfort at trying to fulfil a role they may not actually be ready or suited for.”
That sounds like Trump, alright, but we’re not just talking about the comically aggressive handshakes or the way he moves other people’s possessions away from him. Psychologists have also been at pains to point out the US President’s narcissistic tendencies – he talks a lot about himself, uses grandiose language and is preoccupied with his own sense of success.
While that sounds unappealing on paper, research has shown that narcissists earn more money, are more likely to win promotions and are even seen as more attractive. So what can we learn?
Well, narcissists don’t lack confidence and they don’t hesitate, either. They’re more willing to take on leadership roles. They surround themselves with people who praise them, creating a cult of personality that gets you noticed. And they use the words “I” and “me” a lot more than the rest of us.
Sad? Maybe. But it got Trump to the White House.
The Lesson: Always Seem Dissatisfied
Rugby fans will remember that before Eddie Jones came along, the good ship England was being steered by a more gentle, sensitive soul called Stuart Lancaster. He was the archetypal modern coach: sensitive to his player’s needs, pre-packaged with new age philosophy about how to make flowers bloom and the green grass grow.
Then, after four years and precisely zero trophies, Lancaster was out and in strode Jones like the human embodiment of a giant belt buckle – all straight talking, rapier wit, and next-level banter.
“Eddie Jones is an alpha male who shows his emotions,” says Robert Phipps, author of Body Language: It’s What You Don’t Say That Matters. “If he’s not happy, he shows it. Being an alpha, he has no need to hide his frustration or to appear politically correct.”
Jones doesn’t hold back praise of his team, but nor is he ever satisfied. He bluntly criticises players when they’re unfit or don’t perform well, and even after thumping victories has been known to focus on the faults in the team performance.
His style of leadership is also dependent on goal-setting. England has won back-to-back Six Nations championships since Jones took charge and didn’t lose a game in 2016. After a record-equalling winning streak earlier this year, he simply said, “We’re one year into a four-year project.”
The lesson? Don’t dwell on smaller victories, use them as springboards to something greater.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson
The Lesson: Push Yourself Constantly
At a time when men have been collectively examining their metrosexuality, there’s still a guy out there, making gazillions, called The Rock. Ex-high school jock, one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, the highest paid Hollywood actor in 2016. In so many ways, The Rock is a throwback to the 1980s, which was probably the Everest decade for the alpha male. The age of Arnie and Stallone, ‘Greed is Good’ and the yuppies.
“The Rock is all about presenting what he feels the male body should be,” says Phipps. “The alpha in him means pushing himself hard physically to see and feel the results firstly for himself, secondly for others.”
“His striving for physical perfection suggests he understands that to act the part you also need to look the part,” continues Cox. “Nature will always need leaders, and those leaders, whether they are lions, wolves, elephants or humans, always need to be strong, physically and mentally.”
Take one look at the man’s Instagram feed and you’ll see that routine and self-discipline are key parts of his success. But for all his swagger, he has also admitted that he suffered periods of depression early in his career. Then, as now, self-belief seemed to fuel him: “You’ve just gotta remember, hold onto that fundamental quality of faith,” he said earlier this year. “Have faith, and on the other side of your pain is something good.”
The Lesson: Be Ruthless In Your Ambitions
While other kids harboured dreams of being a postman or a cowboy, Musk was teaching himself to be a computer programmer. From dotcom dominance to green energy, this is a man who isn’t content with changing the world, he wants to colonise Mars, too.
And with those stratospheric ambitions comes a reputation for ruthlessness. “Musk is the kind of boss where day-to-day you don’t know if you have a job or not,” his former employee Mike Harrigan once said of him.
Another well-publicised anecdote told of Musk involves the Tesla boss interrupting a meeting to ask one of the attendees why he was there. The employee hadn’t said anything in the meeting – to Musk, this was an unacceptable waste of time.
One of the things that separates high achievers like Musk from the rest of us is fear. While most people have a fear of failure, high achievers have a greater fear of not trying in the first place. However, single-minded ambition has it drawbacks, says Cox.
“Ambition is often seen as going hand in hand with ruthlessness, but ruthlessness is a leadership weakness, not a strength,” she says. “There is a difference between navigating strongly and quickly through people or events that are moving slower than you are, but diplomacy and communication along this journey are what tend to separate the respected and revered ambitious leaders, from the ones that build resentment amongst others.”
The Lesson: Create Your Own Style
It takes a certain kind of man with a certain degree of self-belief to go out and build his own brand, but Nick Wooster has done just that.
The 57-year-old has worked for the likes of Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, had an armful of tattoos juxtaposed with gentlemanly tailoring long before it became ubiquitous, and has previously been described as the “Alpha Male of American street style”.
“Nick Wooster, like The Rock, has a firm idea of what suits men,” says Phipps. “What highlights them to their best – their style, their elegance. Unlike the others, his body language is softer – but that’s the way the fashion industry operates. The individuals don’t have to be flamboyant or brash, he’s selling quality that speaks for itself.”
“It is an Alpha Male’s job to lead by example,” agrees Cox. “And to help other men grow into their strengths too. It is not about dominance, it is about leadership.”