This topic seems to come up from time to time, and it's one I find rather interesting. Not always in a good way, but interesting nonetheless. So I thought I might share my opinion and view on the subject. Though, it is only mine, so agree or disagree with the subject if you like. But hopefully there's some interesting info, regardless.
As a big fan of wolves, I have actually done some reading into the interesting pack dynamic. How these wonderful creatures, loyal and intelligent, communicate and relate to each other to such an extent without any words. How their hierarchy is formed, maintained, and changed. It's really quite amazing.
Which brings me to the topic. How that, relates to what us humans seem to use it for. A reference to label certain characteristics and traits, behavior, and social place. And, it is used as a social dynamic label. Though it may also be used to label personal power, like a state of being, or quality of person. Alpha, beta, and so on. But while some may fall into those groups, or fit somewhat, it really doesn't translate all that well. Apples to oranges, so to speak.
See, the first mistake, I think, is in the terminology itself. Simple words, pertaining to the Greek alphabet, and used to signify place in the pack. Sequentially, from best, to worst. The Alpha being the leader. The head, in charge of, and above the rest, the strongest. Beta being next in line, or second in charge, and Omega being the weakest, and dead last. Sometimes literally. In a pack though, these roles can shift. Placement alters depending on circumstance. An Alpha that gets injured, and is no longer able to exert his power, may find himself an Omega in the blink of an eye. In which the Beta is likely the new Alpha, and so on.
Also, the Alpha is the breeder. The protector of the young, divvying up food, and making sure the pups eat their proper share. All in all, the Alpha is responsible for pack survival, and continuation. They are half and half pack protector, and fierce police for behavior. And I say they, because there is a male and female Alpha. And one, or both, lead the pack.
So, how does this differ from our seeming use, and why use it then? Good question.
It seems Alpha, in our use, has adopted the less positive of those traits. Aggression, dominance, and a preferred place over others. One who exhibits traits that make them a preferable mate isn't bad, except that it's at the cost of others, and makes those others their subordinate. Alpha's are the “top dog”. But our understanding, and relation to the pack is often wrong. These things we have come to know are often only found in captive packs, which operate differently than wild packs.
In a wild pack, there is no Alpha as we know it. The wolf pack operates as a family, year round. The goal of that hierarchy is survival, and to establish some kind of necessary order.
However, we are adaptable, fluid, and able to fit into different roles quite quickly. Our abilities and personalities allow us a much greater diversification of placement. A better example, in our world, is a group of people together, constantly shifting roles and function. Our social circles, friends, or family. Or even work, where one might be required to be a good follower, in order to be a great leader.
A great example of this alpha paradox is the Navy SEAL. Not one who would likely classify as a Beta male. But, whose role consists of constantly following orders from another. Does that make his superior the Alpha? Well, the superior takes his orders from someone else, so are they the Alpha then? It seems our dynamic is not so simple. It is based more off of group input, of those constant changing roles and leadership positions.
But even that is loose fitting, at best. The wonderful human, who has evolved, and made use of opposable thumbs, tools, and fire, should be beyond animalistic classifications, right? We do still consider ourselves evolved, right? Why compare and rate ourselves with less evolved species, much less each other. I mean, we don’t see wolves trying to group or label themselves as blue collar, white collar, and so on. There’s a reason for that. Because they’re wolves, not humans. We also shake hands, and hug, instead of sniffing butts. We also use toilet paper...at least I hope so.
I believe the original intention of the word Alpha was to describe those positive traits to strive for. Leadership qualities, and not always loud ones. The strong, silent type, if you will. Confidence. Poise. Charisma. One who leads by example and commands respect, rather than aggression and demanding it. Compassion, support, and encouragement of your fellow human.
Really, if we think about it, all the things that seem to qualify a Beta, in this new adoption of terminology. But again, the title doesn’t fit well. Because this person, consisting of multiple traits, and being able to pull them up when needed to fit the situation, rarely is second to anything. Nor are they first, or last. They have embraced their unique qualities to be an individual, and that is a place all it's own, free from comparatives.
Really, what we have are different methods and abilities. A leader one day in one way, may be the follower another day in another way. Forget Alpha, Beta, Omega, and any other diminishing labels. Those terms are from a misunderstood animal dynamic, and are based from inaccurate information, twisted into self serving definitions.
So, be a leader. Be great. Be someone others look up to. Be wise. Be caring. Be the absolute best you can be, and improve yourself beyond what you thought was even possible.
Be...a good human, and let the wolves be the wolves.