This case study is 100% hypothetical and does not refer to any real life individuals.
As a reminder (and this is greatly simplifying the roles), alphas lead, betas follow, sigmas get out of the way, and omegas get in the way. Healthy happy Alphas love to guide and protect the people they love, whether the tribe is a family or a team or a flock or a herd or a pack (very few people are Alphas). Healthy happy Betas love to be parents, good employees, part of or on a team, take pride in tribe-contributing accomplishments, such as healthy happy children, long marriages, financial success (and the material indicators, such as new cars, home ownership, vacations, etc) (most people are Betas). Healthy happy Sigmas live to serve or help the tribe: they are mission oriented and want to know that their life matters (or will matter, after they die) in terms of the overall tribe’s survival (very few people are Sigmas). Happy healthy Omegas want to know that they left tangible evidence of their existence behind upon death: they are amazingly gifted authors, artists, make-up artists, journalists, craftspeople, inventors, musicians, directors, playwrights, screenplaywrights, and more!
Once upon a time, an Omega female and a Beta female were both groomed by their employers for “leadership.” Let’s discuss why this is an unfortunate mis-expenditure of resources and how such an “investment” actually backfires when applied to people who are not naturally inclined toward leadership.
These two case studies are of course not based on any real people.
And yes, groomed is a terrible disgusting word. Words have meanings. And, organizations who lure innocent beta and omega girls into leadership positions because they are easily manipulated know exactly what they’re doing. Fully aware emotionally mature manipulators who prey on these emotional teenagers in adult bodies are going into a gray area of life-path manipulation: you could literally prevent members of the next generation of the tribe from being born by steering someone away from their natural inclination to raise a family instead of seeking a career first (rather than a career and lifestyle).
Every Beta is a conformist in their own way. Omegas are usually more deeply damaged and thus more fascinating. (And everyone is damaged; you just have to dig. As my mom used to say, “If you keep digging, Sarah Louise, eventually you’re going to find what you’re looking for.”) That being said, because traits are better understood in context, let’s review leadership within the context of all four tribal roles.
Sigmas eschew leadership. A Sigma will generally reject the ranking and categorizing so prevalent in traditional human hierarchies, but will, in order to survive, “deal with it,” as it were; however, they can and do respect authority and power that has been earned through achievement or expresses itself as a talent that has been developed over time (through hard work). Sigmas overwhelmingly prefer not to be controlled — in other words, they seek autonomy. But because they have no inclination to control others, they avoid leadership positions; they prefer to work independently or directly for the alpha. While they strongly dislike being on a team, they will certainly tolerate it if a team is what is required to achieve a goal or complete a mission that benefits the greater good of the tribe. Sigmas work better in a partnership where they have veto power and are treated with respect by their partner. Caveat: a Sigma who feels that they have been betrayed by the tribe will walk to the end of the earth to avenge an injustice and punish the tribe for its collective weakness. Usually, they are the classic lone wolf archetype who can and will lead, begrudgingly, if and only if there LITERALLY IS NO ONE ELSE TO DO IT.
Alphas are the natural leader in any group. They want to be admired and respected but they can’t control whether you’re too daft to admire and respect them, so they’ll also accept feared and treated with respect; think Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, both classic alpha’s alphas. They’re strong — and scary when necessary. Some organizational entities simply do not offer enough public recognition opportunity to fulfill an alpha’s drive for elevated status in society so alphas may leave to find a new vessel for the notoriety they crave. So what happens in an organization who by its very nature simply doesn’t offer the type of leadership an alpha wants to commit herself to? They have to “coach” betas into being leaders.
Betas are followers. If you give them a command to lead, they’ll say, “yes, ma’am!” You’ve heard of topping from the bottom? (oh you haven’t … never mind) Well, this is bottoming from the top. Betas in a leadership position: it’s hilarious. But they’re so good at following orders that eventually, even THEY will feel that they are in command. Betas are great middle managers (and great worker bees too of course). My favorite male boss was a beta male. He was GREAT. As in Tony the Tiger, grrrrreat. He would always say, you’re doing great. And then LEAVE. And NOT micromanage. Hi. Thanks for signing off on my time sheet so payroll could direct deposit my money. Bye. Happy Friday to you too. I saw him twice a week if that. So awesome. He always told me what I was doing well and always made the omega female assistant manager give the “coaching” (for some reason I always ignored the length of my customer service calls in favor of providing CUSTOMER SERVICE — he would genuinely tell me my calls were great and she would condescendingly tell me they were too long. The point is, he knew exactly where he stood in our corporate tribe. He had a boss, and he had subordinates. He wasn’t gratified by having authority over a few teams of people. You know why? Because no [un-]well meaning Leadership Team Mentor inflated his sense of self, mind controlled him with very specific triggering words, honed in on his deeply repressed adolescent sense of competition, and encouraged him to “think like a leader.” The very concept of following a command in order to lead. What?!
Omegas are not leaders. In fact, they are often on the periphery of the tribe, either because they are so neurodiverse that their proclivity for solitude (what the rest of the tribe calls isolation) causes them to be so socially awkward that they either rarely go out into social situations, or they do, but learn to avoid groups of people. (Or some might say that their lack of social grace which in turn makes them feel alone in a crowd is what causes them to self-sequester.)
Let me say right now, I have a very special place in my heart for omegas. I love omegas. They can be oracles of wisdom, funny, sweet, kind … but even in the healthy contributing ones, there’s always an aura of vulnerability around them. They were bullied (and/or coddled) as kids. (And the people who leapt in front of them on the playground when they were being bullied as kids? Sigmas.) Now, we’re all vulnerable and mortal; but this is different. If you are a Sigma or an Alpha, you will know you’re in the presence of an omega if all of a sudden, you feel very protective. Sigma men often marry omega women for this reason (that is to say, Sigma men who do marry — most don’t). Sigma females will often have that one omega male friend who has a not-so-secret-crush on her. This is good and as it should be. The tribe is safer and better off when these alliances are made. It’s primal and we can applaud our natural tendencies to protect others and to seek protection from those stronger than ourselves.
Omegas can fit into the tribe; but as I’ve said in past blog posts, it’s almost as if they are walking around with dead batteries inside their internal danger detector. Omega women might have a stalker (or more than one — and THEY ARE NOT TO BLAME FOR BEING STALKED; the alphas who do not protect the weak members of the tribe from stalkers bear the responsibility as well as the stalkers themselves for taking the stalking action) or omega men might become stalkers, or other types of criminals. It would be simple to say, “they don’t listen to their gut,” the gut instinct that would tell them don’t get drawn in to that bad crowd/gang/criminal cabal or don’t go out with that guy — can’t you feel that he’s nothing but bad news? But the truth is, their gut isn’t giving them feedback the way it does for alphas, betas and sigmas. This is why the family unit, upheld and honored as a “mini-tribe” so to speak, or a sub-tribe, is so so important. Strong Alpha-style leadership — even from Beta or Omega parents — goes a long long way toward preventing a weak omega child or teen or even 20-something from getting lost and further wounded within the larger tribe. For example, let’s say an overly romantic teen who writes poetry all day has parents who view it as a phase but unfortunately it keeps going (and going and going) till she’s ready to major in Poetic Studies of Romance and Passion with a minor in Romance Derived Emotional Agony in Literature & Life through the Millennia at her women’s college in upstate [insert blue state of your choice here]. Strong parents who proved themselves to be reliable dependable sincere honest individuals who led by example will repeatedly, confidently and warmly remind her that writing poetry is a wonderful skill, and one that she should enjoy all her life, but life is for living, and she should find a real human being to fall in love with so she can experience that emotional agony FIRST HAND, and then parlay the exploration of the depths of the pain/pleasure continuum into a film or television screenplay writing career that pays well. AND, she can still write poetry on the side, right? Right! (And mom gets her grandkids and dad gets a good ROI on the $150k he just poured into the overpriced liberal arts degree.) Because the parents are strong, perceived as a unit, and no hypocrisy is mucking up the advice, the omega child happily agrees! She changes her major to English then moves to LA and enters a screenplay writing graduate course and enjoys a happy successful career inducing a range of emotions across the pain/pleasure continuum in viewers across the country every time they turn on their TV! See, it’s a win-win for everyone. When the parents are not strong (or absent or emotionally absent), this example omega woman often ends up in a bad relationship with another omega, one who is abusive and unkind, whereas in our happy version of reality, she marries another omega, a fellow successful gainfully employed writer, who also writes poetry — on the side — dedicated to none other than our beautiful omega soul who is his beloved. And did I mention they end up having healthy happy well-adjusted kids themselves? (All the alphas reading this care about is the kids — but did they have kids though, Sarah? Yes, yes, tons of kids! Get health care costs down and bust the higher education racket and they’ll have even more kids, my Alphas!)
So when omegas go down a dark path, they become what society rather brutally labels “losers.” They thrive when they’re self-employed WINNERS; for a male example, think Stephen King or that guy who runs his own crafts booth at the Renaissance Faire and makes a hundred grand over the summer and doesn’t have to work the rest of the year. He has the ability to focus in solitude for hours without going crazy; introversion to the extreme is often present in successful omegas.
Yes, almost everyone at RenFest is an omega. But seriously, all those incredibly talented metal and leather-workers, craftspeople, potters, comedians, writers — they’re all very gifted and successful omegas. But what they are not is leaders. Let me put the text in italics and boldface for the people in the back. Omegas are not leaders. They may be extremely intelligent and/or neurodiverse. This makes them awesome researchers and professors. They don’t lead. They don’t even deliver orders from a commanding position in the power dynamic well — these are the people who came up with the idea of being friends with their kids! (If this is you and you are uncomfortable with the imbalance of power and control in the power dynamic with your offspring, it may help you to do the Sigma thing and think of yourself as the teacher and the kids as your apprentices; that way you are helping, leading, educating versus ordering, commanding, controlling. From this level, you can re-frame yourself as Guardian instead of Parent if you have some past negative connotation with authority and abuse of power.) And there’s another icky side of some omegas (not even most or the majority) where their power and control wires crossed (so to speak) and so they seek to assert dominance over other people; they are the type that “never makes it above middle management” that Patrick Jane refers to in the show “The Mentalist.” There’s just something off about them; what is it? Sadism. Lots of people’s wires crossed in early life, so to speak; it still didn’t manifest as gratification over other people being dependent on them for a job or food or shelter or care or money in a way that allows them to express their desire to control how much pain those people are in.
And this bring us to our garden variety Omega. She may present as a compliant well-adjusted Beta: not particularly outspoken (alpha or sigma) and not particularly wounded (after all, everyone has pain in their past). Omegas are drawn to people and organizations that represent power and authority because they know (and can feel) instinctively, that power and authority are what they lack. While betas choose to conform on a daily basis in order to avoid the threat of punishment for falling out of line, omegas will sometimes seek the direct protection of law enforcement by specifically seeking to join that “tribe.” Male and female omegas often seek jobs as police, EMT’s, other first responders, such as 911 dispatchers, and other positions in law enforcement. Omega women who are high-functioning will show you an intact childhood home, but if you dig, you will likely find an emotional incest relationship with one or both parents. Simply put, this person is too close to one parent for their own good. (No one should be over the age of 14 and still calling their mom “mommy;” often the offending parent has been sublimating their love for the lost spouse through displays of affection for the child, now an adult, including expensive gifts of jewelry and other purchases normally given and received by romantic partners, for years.)
So, once upon a time, an omega female who worked for a large company and was very high functioning (you would have no idea she was an omega till you found out she had power/control/dominance issues, a stalker, and had a degree of personality weakness that made her susceptible to the power of suggestion, such as, “you are a natural leader”) was chosen by her superiors for leadership training. She really had no desire to be in an authority position. She much preferred controlling whether or not someone was hired or fired, cognizant of how pleasurable it was to tell people they were not chosen for a position (and completely unaware that most people feel horrible doing that task). She enjoyed deception for the sake of deception, not because it was necessary to get information, but because it was gratifying to feel that she knew what was really going on when the other person didn’t. No harm, no foul. She wasn’t hurting anyone … really. Maybe in the end it was a little gray. But not immoral. Especially if her superiors asked her to do it. She certainly couldn’t say no. Well, not really. Power, authority — it was its own designer drug. Power and authority. The combination was addictive. But now her bosses wanted her to seek a leadership role. “We need someone like you,” and the word need really triggered her. She had never been needed. Needing others was the basis of her most familiar power dynamic, the one she had grown up in. And she had severe anxiety when she thought about inevitably losing that dominant authority figure she felt she “needed” some day. She also had severe anxiety when she thought about having children and when she thought about not having children. Completely disconnected from her biological clock, she was in denial of her waning fertility but instead of facing the fear of making a wrong decision, she let authority figures at work steer her toward a path that kept her in constant state of focusing on the present moment. No future. No past.
The Problem: there’s no way that these authority figures don’t know that our omega female really does want to marry and have kids. No way. They know. How could they prey on a sweet thoughtful conscientious omega female who would be a wonderful mom but whose time to marry [a man who also wants to have children] and get pregnant is ticking away? She will punish her bosses with poor performance and/or frequent absences, etc., once she realizes that she’s been used.
In Their Haste: they taught her to “be assertive”! But by assertive, they really meant “be aggressive” and unfortunately they framed it in a male vs female competition paradigm. “Men will apply for jobs they don’t even qualify for and ask for raises when they haven’t even earned one — be like men!” they rambled over bitter scalding hot coffee in the 3 star hotel’s conference room OR as overly moist (to the point of actually damp) mini-muffins were passed around the freezing cold hyper air conditioned basement meeting room at the corporate headquarters.
Bad Advice: these “coaches” and “mentors” had our poor omega female so confused about which way is up that when she interacted with me, she began to feel competitive. Omegas rarely feel competitive. Bad leadership coaches however can push the “be assertive, go for it!” programming so hard though that the suggestible omega will forget that she’s not even in a competition and unintentionally behave in a way that indicates a feeling of being threatened. By the same token, the art of deception would never even be attempted by a little sweet baby omega of her own accord. (And certainly shouldn’t ever be attempted on an adult sigma female for practice, lol.) But bad leadership training gave her a false sense of confidence and an inflated sense of skill, so when her attempt to prolong a meeting that was being observed outdoors in front of an establishment backfired, she couldn’t imagine how she could have given herself away.
Bottom line: Omegas aren’t leaders. Period. Full stop. Plus, it’s unethical to steer a person away from parenthood when they would raise healthy happy kids who contribute to the tribe. And, really? Interactive manipulation and deception by an Omega?
Moving on to the Beta female:
Once upon a time, a Beta female who worked for a large company was chosen by her superiors for leadership training. She had always had a desire to be in an authority position. She loved having the upper hand in a power dynamic. She put up with the ridiculous “be open to feedback! Nay, don’t just be receptive, seek it out!” mentoring propaganda endured during the freezing cold windowless basement leadership seminars because she knew that one day when she was in a leadership role, she’d get to dish criticism out just as hard as she had received it. And she vividly imagined that day, how she would invite her subordinates into her office — leave the door open of course, so everyone can hear — and then with a SUPER sincere smile on her face, deliver “feedback,” each word that came out of her mouth a freshly sharpened knife aimed directly at the center of the person’s self-image. Yep. All’s fair in love and war … and annual reviews. Moreover, she enjoyed deception for the sake of deception, not only because it was an excellent way to get information, but also because it was super SUPER gratifying to feel that she knew what was really going on when the other person didn’t. No harm, no foul. She wasn’t hurting anyone … really. Maybe in the end it was a little gray. But not immoral. Especially if her superiors asked her to do it. She couldn’t say no. Or at least she feigned initial reluctance … wink wink. But now her bosses wanted her to seek a leadership role. “We need someone like you,” and the word need really triggered her. She had always been smart but not genius level. She certainly didn’t see herself as indispensable. This was a once in a career chance and she HAD to take it. Even though in the back and front of her mind, she thought constantly about getting married and having kids. She had never been needed. (A baby would need her! It was like a thought she couldn’t stop having!) Independence was the basis of her most familiar power dynamic, the family dynamic she had grown up fighting against, as she battled for rank and praise as a young beta. She had had to prove that she didn’t need other people. Fast forward a couple decades and she was now an adult harassed daily by her own ticking biological clock. She found herself doing an agonizing two-step as she danced back and forth between denial of her waning fertility and embrace of this “opportunity” at work. Being a classic Beta who naturally defers to the strongest energy in the room or the company or the tribe, she let her workplace mentor — whose confidence made her feel confident (but only when they were together! When they were apart, the dread came back!) — steer her toward a path that kept her in a constant state of focusing on the present moment. No future. No past. She couldn’t figure out why all the methods she was taught to use to control — er, lead — others at work had no effect on her live-in boyfriend. Why didn’t he want to marry her? She had invested too much time in him to leave now — start over, now? When the clock was ticking? Don’t think about it. Try not to think about it.
The Problem: there’s no way that these authority figures don’t know that our Beta female really does want to marry and have kids. No way. They know. How could they prey on this funny, smart, outgoing, sociable beta female who would be a wonderful mom but whose time to marry and get pregnant is ticking away? (By this, I am referring to the period of time where she will have the luxury of picking from a pool of men who BOTH a) want to get married and b) have children. The pool of men who only want to get married is very VERY different. Like swimming in a pool versus swimming in a Great Lake.) Why aren’t they helping her reach her personal AND professional goals? She will resent the company and LEAVE THEM as punishment, whether she intends it consciously or unconsciously, once she realizes that that was her moment, when she was still young and fertile enough to start over with someone else. And she’ll be PISSED that the leadership training was presented to her as a now or never path that HAD to take precedence to everything else (including the very decisive move she would have had to make in her personal life — not that she couldn’t still do it. She can! And should! Today!!).
In Their Haste: they taught her to “be assertive!” But by assertive they really meant “be aggressive” and she knew it. She had no problem being aggressive; in fact, that was all she’d been waiting for: for the leader of the tribe (or the next best thing, her direct supervisor) to give her permission to. She’d been waiting her whole life for that permission statement. It had always been inside her, this relentless drive to prove that she was better than other people. Deep down she knew she actually wasn’t. And sometimes she wondered if the leaders saw that. (In reality, she was more skilled than many of her peers but not most. She was very good. Better than good. Not great. Not outstanding. Absolutely a contributing member of the tribe who should be rewarded for hard work and accomplishments. Plus, what a fabulous can-do attitude.)
Bad Advice: these “coaches” and “mentors” had our Beta female’s sense of confidence and skill so inflated that when she interacted with me, she began to feel a profound cognitive dissonance in the presence of someone who made no attempt to prove confidence or skill. Betas are naturally competitive with everyone and there is almost nothing they won’t do to get rank and praise from strong authority figures (people on the “leadership team”). Betas are mean (sometimes very mean) girls. It’s a common misconception that Alphas are the mean girls in 8th grade. No — they just give the orders. Betas carry out the actually mean acts. Bad leadership coaches push the “be assertive, go for it!” programming so hard that a Beta will forget that she’s not even in a competition and unintentionally behave in a way that indicates a feeling of being threatened.
Bottom line: Now here is a person who can learn deception and manipulation, but over confidence will be the giveaway. For example, one Beta female was assigned to take a photo of someone with her phone. Now there is a way to do this, quickly and seamlessly and without detection, and it is to pretend to be taking a selfie but really the camera is turned around and taking a picture of what is in front of you, not of you. However, this emotional tenth grader (some girls get emotionally stunted at the age at which they lost their virginity; she was one of them) just literally whipped out her iphone, took a picture of the person … lol … from 14 inches away across the table at a booth in a restaurant. (It was not even a pretend “I’m gonna post this pic of my dish on instagram” moment — no food was on the table!! It could only have been more obvious if she had said, “Say Cheese.”)
Another problem that will always eventually present itself with Betas in a leadership role is that they will have impostor syndrome. Because they are impostors in a leadership role. They know it. They can feel it. So can everyone else. BUT Betas who are healthy and happy at HOME (i.e. happily married and have kids who make them feel needed, not subordinates who will eventually make them feel “burnt out” if they are too needy and superiors who will make them feel pressured if they are too demanding) are the BEST middle managers. Like my Beta male boss who (almost) never walked by me in the hall without saying something positive about my performance personally or something complimentary about how well the team was doing collectively, this female Beta can be a great manager of members of a team. Happy Betas as leaders feel like your favorite aunt, your god-father, your big sister, your big brother. But unless they’ve experienced this healthy protective nurturing as members of their own sub-tribe (family) from members of their own sub-tribe (family), they can’t fake it.
The other element of forcing a Beta into a leadership role that will unavoidably come into play is the inability of the Beta to sincerely apologize if she perceives it as a redistribution of power or rank; they have no problem saying sorry to friends and family to quell a disagreement (or at least no more reluctance than any of us — after all, who likes to be wrong? But humility can be learned by any of the roles and none of them is more likely than the others to have learned it). In this example, though, we’re referring to the inability to say the words, “I’m sorry” to someone our Beta female perceives as competition. Betas have a wonderfully acute sense of power: they internally and intuitively measure who has the most power in a group. They perceive the total amount of power anywhere and everywhere as finite. Admitting to having made a mistake is the same as admitting weakness, i.e., admitting a lack of power. So if they admit that they are wrong, they perceive themselves to be transferring power from their power savings account to the power account of the person they’ve apologized to. That directly conflicts with their survival instinct’s compulsion to hoard power, and save it for a rainy day. After all, power isn’t like money that you can just hand out for a charitable cause; it’s extremely hard to get, extremely hard to keep (especially because it could be usurped by an Alpha or Sigma at any time), and thus very important not to give away, for Betas. In one interaction I had with this Beta female, she asked me for my address to send me a holiday card from out of town; then when we touched base a month and a half later, I texted her that I never did get her card: “did you get the one I sent you?” I asked. “When yours never came, I figured it got lost in the mail.” She replied that she did get mine and thanked me. Now I had given her the out — blame it on the US Postal Service. The easiest thing to do would have been to lie, and reply to me, “you didn’t get it? That is weird. That darn post office!” And we could have laughed it off as a symptom of eventual empire collapse, a bureaucracy so metastatic that Christmas cards disappear into the ether like so much dust. But she couldn’t. She literally couldn’t: her survival instinct compelled her to ignore a text with any information that could cause her to feel down-ranked.
It’s imperative that Betas feel good at home before they’re given authority over or responsibility for others. It could literally become a matter of life and death.
Sigma Sarah’s Suggestions:
An existing mentor program could be slightly adjusted to include some straight talk about work/home balance. And both the Omega and Beta would need a mentor who has achieved this, to teach by example, and to ask each of them, quite frankly, “let’s you say you meet your soulmate tomorrow. It’s a minimum of 2 years from today before you give you birth if you want to be married to that child’s father. How old will you be in two years?” If retention of employees is the goal, then it’s imperative that companies make work/home balance a priority. It can be hard (or potentially risky) to say these things to people’s faces in our overly PC culture so perhaps organizations could add a 15 minute talk to the end of the over the top leadership seminars in a way that addresses everyone in general and targets no one in particular. Covering the cost of matchmaking services, such as eHarmony and match . com could also be offered as an additional benefit. Working with the survival instinct’s profound compulsion to procreate is a winning strategy: the happier the members of the tribe, the more productive they are, the longer they’ll stick around, and the more they’ll contribute. We need women in the workforce. But the survival instinct’s compulsion to procreate is a cruel master: it just needs to be handled like any other challenge.
Alphas should lead! Betas make great middle managers when their work/home life is balanced. Omegas are not leaders. Sigmas can lead but please don’t make them. Hooray! World peace! Nay, world joy!!