When most people hear the phrase ‘alpha female’ they think of the most attractive, powerful or domineering woman they know. However, alpha females are not so easily recognizable. They might be beautiful or bossy or authoritative, but this is not what defines them.

The easiest way to spot an alpha female is in a room or group of females. You easily can figure out who the alpha is by observing the following alpha female phenomena. Watch the video below to learn the characteristics to help you spot an alpha female: 

Nine Characteristics to Help You Spot an Alpha Female

 

1. Alpha females are social conductors; non-alpha females are her orchestra

Next time you are at a party or networking event, try this fascinating experiment: Find a group of three or more females —you do not need to be close enough to hear them, they should just be in your line of sight. Put a five-minute timer on your phone or watch and take note of the direction of the women’s feet. Almost always women point their feet toward the person they are most interested in or who they feel is leading the group’s tempo. In only five minutes you will be able to see where the majority of the women are pointing their feet. Amazingly, you will notice that most of the women in the group will be pointing toward the same woman–even if they are in a circle and even if that woman is not talking.

 

2. All females follow the alpha’s social cues

Once you have an inkling of who the alpha female is in the group, move closer (or, if you are a woman, you even can join the circle). You will notice that the entire group is taking ‘social cues’ from the alpha. The other women will hold their body like her. They will talk in the same voice tone. They even will laugh for the same amount of time as the alpha does. By the way, alpha female behavior is harder to spot in a group of males and females—males confuse the female attention spans.

 

3. When the alpha female leaves, a social vacuum is created

Another way you can spot the alpha female of a group is by watching how each group member exits. When non-alpha’s leave the group nothing much happens—conversation continues, the gap closes and group members move on. However, when THE alpha female (and there can be only one, see below for details) you will see something odd happen. Either conversation stops completely and the group members look around expectantly for a new alpha, or the group disperses.

 

4. There are different degrees of female alpha-ness

Female alpha-hood is not like pregnancy (you are or you aren’t). It is more of a spectrum. Some women have a high tendency to be alpha. They enjoy social conducting, being the leader and/or the center of attention. Some women only like being female alphas in their home, but not in the business environment. Some women are only social alphas around certain groups of friends. If you explain the alpha female phenomenon to a woman, she most likely will be able to tell you her ‘degree’ of social alpha-ness. On a ten point scale she might be a seven or a four, for example.

 

5. There can be only one alpha female per cluster

What happens when two alpha females are in the same office? One word: Disaster. Or, maybe two words: Disaster and Drama. The alpha female with the higher degree of alpha-ness usually takes charge and the second alpha female backs down. Well, she seethes, plots revenge and then backs down. In social groups most of the female drama comes when two alpha females are competing to be the social conductor and non-alpha females (or alpha females to a lesser degree) are not sure who to follow.

 

6. There must be at least one alpha female

Oddly, there must only be one alpha female, but there also has to be AT LEAST one. We all have experienced (whether we knew it or not) a group without an alpha female. Men would describe it as ‘awkward,’ ‘weird,’ or ‘boring.’ This is because in a group of women with very low alpha female tendencies no one is sure how to act, what to talk about or the social pace. Alpha females actually have the very important role of social lubrication.

 

7. Alpha females are social lubrication and business mediators

We have very little awareness of how important they are and how much we do, in fact, rely on alpha females. They bring social ease to a group. They tell jokes. They start conversations. They introduce people. They smooth over business disagreements and take charge. They have many names, both good and bad: connectors, chatty, gossipers, queen bees, leaders, bossy, self-centered, the life of the party, social and control freaks.

 

8. We are groomed to either accept or become alpha females

In the book The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, she discusses the evolutionary and biological importance for females to get along and keep harmony in a group. From a very young age girls are taught—far more than boys–to share, cooperate and play fair. Girls get very good at reading other’s emotions and adapting to the tone of a group. Alpha females actually make it easier for a group of girls to interact because there is one unspoken leader. This leader sets the tone for the group and allows girls to get along without having a power struggle.

 

9. Alpha females are the top of the hierarchy

If I had to put a label on the different most typical female roles in group settings, here are what they would be:

Alphas: Leaders

Betas: Side-kicks or enforcers of alpha leadership.

Nus: The exact middle letter of the Greek alphabet, Nus are fillers. They provide conversation, gossip and support for the Alpha.

Zetas: The jokester, comic relief, clown, goofball of the group. Most groups have a female jester.

Omegas: (The last letter of the Greek alphabet) The victims, the bullied, the weaklings or the “C” in a female troika always are picked on or treated with loving condescension. (See my article on Female Troikas.)

Sampis: (An obsolete letter of the Greek alphabet, often forgotten) The Invisibles, the forgotten girls whose quiet or shy demeanor often means they are not included or counted.

It is actually very helpful to know the alpha females in your life—or recognize if you in fact are one yourself. You will find yourself appreciating them in awkward social situations or, if you are an alpha female, avoiding other alpha females who challenge you. Do you know the alpha females in your life?

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and human behavioral investigator in our lab.

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