Lekking displays in contemporary organizations: ethologically oriented, evolutionary and cross-species accounts of male dominance

Jeffrey Braithwaite*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to draw on scientific models in conceptualising the evolutionary bases of contemporary behaviours, and make cross-species comparisons, to account for male managerial activities in situ in health organizations. Design/methodology/approach - In the animal world, males of many species display in order to induce females to mate. Such lekking behaviour involves inter alia, strutting, puffing out, catching attention via the use of ornamental physical characteristics, exhibiting gaudily-coloured body parts, singing or splashing, and other courting and wooing strategies. The paper applies these behavioural repertoires as an explanatory device for male-dominant organizational lekking in a set of contemporary settings. It draws on six studies of managerial talk, appearance and behaviour in order to do so. Findings - Within the organizational lek male managers display mainly by power dressing, positioning, and exercising power and influence via verbal and behavioural means. Social and religious mores prohibit overt sexual coupling in organizations but lekking for other rewards is nevertheless pursued by male managers. The paper explores this managerial patterning, compares it to the lekking behaviour of other species, and discusses points of comparison and departure. It shows how male managers display within various sub-habitats, and discusses the central issues of appearance, tasks and work assignment, physical interaction structure, and talk and physiognomy. Practical implications - Understanding what makes people tick via deep explanations than are customarily rendered is a vital contribution of scholarship to the practical world of management. Originality/value - The evolutionary bases of contemporary behaviours, and cross-species accounts, may prove useful paradigms for other theorists and empiricists in organizational studies, and could encourage the development of a new field that might be labeled evolutionary organizational behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-559
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Health, Organisation and Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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