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This study investigates leadership among a population of transitional hunter-gatherers and is the first investigation of dominance and prestige biased learning among leaders in a small-scale society. The Chabu have recently adopted the Kebele system, a local administrative unit of the Ethiopian government. Under this system, the community elects various male and female leaders. Hence, there was an opportunity to research leadership in an egalitarian society transitioning to increased hierarchy. Using self-report, peer-rated, free-listed, and anthropometric measures we investigate the utility of the dominance-prestige model, and others, in predicting elected leaders through bivariate tests, linear models, and exploratory analysis. In general, there was a strong positive correlation between peer-ratings across several leadership traits, including both dominance and prestige, and with leader status. For women, however, being feared and fighting ability were negatively correlated with other measures as well as with leader status. Male leaders score higher than non-leaders on dominance, intelligence, prestige, and mentorship; female leaders score higher on prestige. Prestige is a stronger predictor of leadership than dominance. Male leadership is associated with biased social learning, which applies to individuals scoring high on both dominance and prestige. These results provide a rare, gendered-view of leadership among a transitioning egalitarian society.
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