Alpha vs Beta vs Sigma Male: Understanding the Different Male Personality Types

Am I an alpha male? A beta male? A sigma male? A bazinga male?

Few areas of the “manosphere” garner more attention or ridicule than the concept of the male personality type.

Specifically, the idea that a man’s way of being in the world can be reduced to little more than some Twitter-fueled version of Campbell (Greek) Alphabet Soup.

Male personality type proponents claim that animal studies show a clear social hierarchy. And that understanding your place inside of it can provide valuable insights into the steps required to climb the ranks and reach your highest potential.

The opposition believes that these superficial personality types are based on now-debunked science and do little more than hinder authentic masculine expression.

So what’s the truth?

As usual, here at Knowledge for Men, we believe in the Latin proverb, “Et medio stat veritas.

The truth lies in the middle.

Avoiding the Dogma: What the Mainstream Gets Wrong About Male Personality Type

Before we dive into the different male personality types, I want to make sure we’re operating from the same foundational principles inside of this conversation.

Like anything relating to gender dynamics, the topic of male personality type is rife with dogma and confusion.

And while I believe that there is some value to be gleaned from them, it’s important that we establish a few foundational concepts to guide our exploration of this topic.

1. There’s No Such Thing as a Pure Alpha Male, Beta Male, or Sigma Male

First and most importantly, I want to be clear that there is no such thing as a pure alpha male, beta male, sigma male, or any other “type” of male.

Every person on the planet is their own unique individual with their own unique set of traits and idiosyncrasies.

Alpha males will still follow other men. Beta males will assert themselves. And sigma males–classified as the cunning and manipulative type–will let down their guard and put others before themselves.

Like any system that attempts to boil down an individual into a few pithy ideas and concepts (i.e. Myers Briggs tests, Astrology, and archetype quizzes), male personality types fall short in regards to nuance.

You aren’t an alpha male, a beta male, or a sigma male.

You’re YOU.

And while we can derive benefit from any tool that helps us gain a better understanding of ourselves (which we’ll dive into soon) these personality types are not gospel and they aren’t fate.

2. The Mask of Masculinity and Situational Personality Types

In the same way that no man is a “pure” alpha, beta, or sigma male, no man operates from the same personality all of the time.

Human beings are, first and foremost, adaptive creatures.

Like chameleons, we alter our traits and characteristics to fit into the environments in which we find ourselves and respond appropriately to the social and cultural reality around us.

Even the most “alpha” male will exude beta male traits when in the presence of more dominant and assertive men.

For example, when I first started building the mens’ coaching program at Knowledge for Men and attended masterminds with entrepreneurs running 8 and 9-figure empires, I would often find myself sitting quietly in the corner. My outgoing and hyper-social personality was stifled by awe at the achievements of those around me.

Inversely, even the most “beta” male will express alpha traits in the right situations.

Men who are typically reserved “followers” will step up to lead when they’re comfortable and surrounded by people they trust, feel safe with or who are more submissive than they are.

You might be an alpha at work, but a beta in your romantic relationships.

Or you might be a beta with one group of friends but an alpha with another.

The bottom line is that our personal expression changes based on the setting, situation and people were surrounded by.

For these classifications to be of any real value they must be considered holistically. Taking into account how we show up across life, not just in isolated circumstances.

3. On The Fluidity and Malleability of Personality

Mountains of new research show us that our traits, behaviors, and even desires not only change with time but can be intentionally changed with effort and intention.

In other words:

Personality isn’t permanent.

A man who is a submissive pushover can develop the trait of assertiveness and learn how to stand up for his needs in a strong healthy way.

A shy and introverted man can learn how to become a social genius and express himself authentically no matter the setting.

A lazy and unmotivated man can develop grit, work ethic, and ambition.

When you were born, you were given the raw genetic material that made you who you are today. But who you become tomorrow? That’s up to you.

The Alpha Male Personality Type

If you Google “Alpha Male Personality” you’ll get a dizzying number of search results defining an alpha male as a rich, jacked, ladies man who can cut down oak trees with his teeth and seduce celebrities like Gal Gadot with a paper bag over his head.

*Queue eye roll*

I, for one, believe it’s time to redefine what it means to be an alpha male.

Because the truth is, being an alpha male has nothing to do with the weight you push in the gym, the size of your bank account, or the number of notches on your bedpost.

It isn’t about leading the wolf pack. It’s about being the leader of your own life. Knowing what you value and what you stand for, taking action toward your unique goals, dreams, and creating the life you want rather than trying it fit into society’s mold or settling for whatever life gives you out of comfort.

Common Traits of Alpha Males

1. An Alpha Male is Assertive

One of the key traits of an alpha male that distinguishes them from the beta male is their ability to be assertive.

They know what they want. They have clear boundaries. And they’re willing to take a stand for their needs. Knowing that if they don’t–no one will.

If you’re on a date with a beautiful woman and she’s being rude to the serving staff, the “alpha move” is to call her our on her bad behavior and make it clear that you aren’t interested in being with a woman who treats others poorly.

Or, if you were passed up for job promotion–instead of simply sulking and accepting your fate–being “alpha” would mean addressing your work performance with your boss and making a case for why you deserve the new position.

This doesn’t mean that you need to actively seek conflict. But rather you’re willing to engage in respectful conflict when your needs aren’t being met or your boundaries are being crossed.

2. Alphas Are Internally Validated

First and foremost, alpha men care about their own opinion of themselves.

This doesn’t mean that they don’t value the counsel of others or consider the opinions of their tribe. But rather that they’re able to validate themselves internally.

They don’t do something for praise or admiration from others. They do it because they believe it’s the right thing to do and it’s in alignment with their personal values and vision.

3. Alphas Take Extreme Ownership for their Lives and Results

One of the most essential traits of alpha men is that they accept extreme ownership for their results and responsibility for building their own world.

If something in their life isn’t working, they accept responsibility for the decisions they made and actions they took to create those results.

If their girlfriend or wife cheats on them, they accept the role that they played in their romantic relationship (even if their only fault was selecting a partner who wasn’t worthy of their trust).

If they got screwed by the genetic lottery and find out that they’re predisposed to something like heart disease or diabetes, they don’t complain or bitch about how unfair life is. They change their behaviors and habits to give themselves the best chance of a healthy life and move forward.

This doesn’t mean that they self-flagellate and bury themselves in guilt for mistakes. It means that they practice self-love and acknowledge that they alone are responsible for the quality of their lives.

4. Alphas Trust Themselves and their abilities

Because alphas take extreme ownership of their lives, they develop a high degree of self-trust and feel self-assured in their decisions.

When you know that you and only you are accountable for the outcomes you create in your life, you learn to trust your own judgment and instincts fast.

They don’t turn to others for answers or expect some guru or mentor to solve their deepest problems. Instead, they use their values and vision as a guidepost. Accepting that sometimes, the wisdom of the crowd is wrong.

When they deeply believe in something–like quitting a high paying job to pursue their dreams, leaving a relationship that isn’t working, or moving to a new city away from their family–they have the courage to trust themselves and take massive action to create the lives they want even if it’s going to be very uncomfortable.

5. Alphas Want to See Their Tribe Thrive

In the 1940s, Rudolph Schenkel of the University of Basel in Switzerland noticed that wolves competed for status within their own sex. Creating a social hierarchy where one male emerged as the dominant member of the pack. Thus creating the concept of the “alpha male” we’re all familiar with today.

But there was a problem.

His research was based on wolves in captivity–not in the wild.

New research–based on observing Yellowstone wolf packs for 20 years–shows that wolves rarely act aggressively toward females or males inside of their own tribe.

Contrary to the alpha myth, they don’t fight for status–they fight to ensure the safety of their pack.

They’re willing to fight with rival packs, take down huge animals, and occasionally display dominance if a younger wolf gets out of line. But their loyalty lies to the tribe. Not some trivial social hierarchy.

In the human world–and the rest of the animal kingdom–the same principle holds true.

The men who are true alpha are fiercely loyal to their tribe. They believe in creating win-win scenarios that are in service of the people they love.

They aren’t competing for status or trying to prove their dominance over their friends and family. Instead, they’re more concerned with seeing their tribe win.

This is the primary difference between the alpha and sigma male personality.

The alpha wants to see his tribe win (and win with them). A sigma wants himself to win at all costs.

But at the end of the day, life is a team sport. And the only sustainable strategy for success is cooperation, not internal competition. The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t start winning championships until Kobe started passing the ball.

By the way…

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What Does It Mean to be a Beta Male?

Contrary to popular conception, betas aren’t broke, sexless, wimpy guys who can’t talk to women. In fact, some of the most “beta” men I’ve ever met have all of the outer trappings of success.

They have a fat bank account, big house, fast car, and might even have easy access to sex.

Their real problem?

They have no backbone. No strong values. And therefore, no foundation as a man. Their internal world is built on a house of cards.

They’re living a shadow life. Instead of taking a stand for what they truly desire and expressing themselves authentically, they conform to the status quo and accept the life pushed upon them by society, their parents, or their social circle.

Common Traits of a Beta Male

1. Beta Males Submit to the Status Quo and Desires of Others

Their whole lives, they’ve been a quiet, good little boy who sat in the corner and did what he was told.

Maybe they went to a good school, got good grades, and a 6-figure job straight out of college. But now, they’re miserable. They hate their job, their lives (probably their wives), and would trade it all for the freedom to live on their terms.

Instead of claiming the freedom that is everyone’s birthright, they hide in fear of what others would think.

“If I quit my job to start my dream business… What would my parents think?”

“I’m not fulfilled in my romantic relationship and know my girlfriend/wife isn’t the right person for me… but what would my friends and family think if I left her?”

“I want to talk to that attractive woman… but what if she rejects me and I look foolish in front of others?

Rather than asserting their dreams and desires in life, betas submit to whatever status quo they’ve been fed by their friends, family, and society.

2. Beta Males Blame Others

Rather than taking responsibility for themselves and the outcomes of their lives, betas blame others and avoid the burden of ownership.

And why wouldn’t they?

When their entire lives are dominated by the desire for validation from others, it’s only natural to resent the people whom you depend on for validation.

They are blind to the reality that they have the power to change their future to be more in alignment with who they really are. Because accepting such a reality would require them to accept the disapproval of other people.

They would rather blame their parents, wives, coworkers, and friends for their failures than accept the fact that success may require them to disappoint their tribe–even when the tribe they have was given to them at birth, not selected and filtered based on the values and vision they now hold.

3. Beta Males Seek Answers from Others

Because of their desire to be liked and avoid rocking the boat, they seek the answers to every important question from other people.

This doesn’t mean that they aren’t good leaders or that they can’t solve challenging problems in isolation.

They don’t trust themselves when it comes to the questions that matter most.

By valuing the opinions of others over their own, they train themselves to look externally for answers to the big questions.

Who should I marry? Where should I live? What career path should I take?

Instead of using their values as a guide and trusting their own vision and desires, they defer these hard questions to experts, gurus, and family members who are operating from a completely different set of values.

And as a result, they almost always find the wrong answer.

4. Beta Males Hide from their Authentic Desires

The burden of an un-lived life weighs tons. And to deal with that burden beta men will numb and sedate to avoid confronting the uncomfortable truth.

They hide from problems in their relationships with porn or affairs (and if they don’t have a relationship, they hide from their struggle to experience intimacy by pursuing meaningless sex).

They hide from the problems in their career with drugs, video games, and other distractions.

They hide from everything that is uncomfortable or painful and live a life of distraction or sedation to avoid taking the actions they know they need to take to live a more authentic life.

But the great irony is that these ploys only make the pain worse.

It’s like avoiding a necessary surgery by taking Tylenol.

The problem doesn’t go away. It just gets worse. And by the time you’re forced to confront it, it might be too late.

What Does It Mean to be a Sigma Male?

Finally, we have the sigma male. The most recent addition to the pack (and no, I’m not going to include all of the six male personality types like gamma males, omega males, and delta males… I’m just going to focus on the core 3!)

Although hordes of “experts” on Reddit will claim that the sigma male is the pinnacle of masculinity, the truth is that this personality type is little more than a bitter beta.

They might appear to be powerful, strong, and grounded. But in reality, they’ve opted for the coward’s way out by flying to the opposite extreme of the beta male rather than addressing their problems in a healthy and grounded way.

Their validation no longer stems from other people’s approval, but from “beating” other people at every game they play.

They abandon the concept of the tribe altogether and decide:

“If you can’t beat em… f*ck em.”

Common Traits of Sigma Males

1. Sigma Males Are Independent to a Fault

Unlike beta males–who depend on their tribe–or alpha males–who seek to support their tribe–a sigma male operates as a lone wolf.

They depend on no one, trust no one, and ultimately care for no one.

After decades of being disappointed by other people and experiencing the pain of rejection, they’ve decided to “Look out for number one.”

They see other people as a burden to their own experience and prefer their own company to that of another person.

Although there’s nothing wrong with self-sufficiency or a healthy drive for alone time, sigmas take this trait to the extreme, avoiding interdependence and companionship to avoid being hurt.

And the end result is a shallow life lived only in service of themselves.

2. Sigma Males Use Manipulative Tactics to Get What They Want

Because they typically spend most of their lives as beaten down betas, they develop a strong understanding of the social “game.” But now that they’re free from the opinions of others, they apply that understanding to get their way through manipulation.

They don’t value the needs or opinions of others, and so they freely abuse others to get what they want.

Telling other people what they want to hear and putting on a good show so they can get what they want.

In their romantic relationships, they tell their girlfriend that they love her while knowing that they’ll cheat or leave her for the next lay in a matter of weeks.

They tell their employer that they’re committed to their role–and work hard to prove it–but then turn around and steal clients and confidential information the second they have the opportunity to strike out on their own.

Sigma males cast away all social constructs and constraints, doing whatever it takes to win. Even if winning costs them their soul.

3. Sigma Males are Self Centered and Don’t Care About Seeing Others Win

Finally and most importantly, sigma males care only about themselves.

There is no tribe. No band of brothers. No cooperation.

There’s only them. Their wants. And their needs. And them winning.

Everyone else? They’re just an obstacle to overcome on the path to getting what they want.

And while they might experience some success or gratification in the short term, it comes at the expense of their long term well being and true fulfillment.

No matter how much of an introvert you are, life is about relationships. It’s about sharing the journey with others.

There’s more joy to be found in winning a small game with others than winning the biggest game alone.

This is what sigmas fail to understand.

And at the end of the day, it’s what leads them to live lives that are just as desperate as the beta male, albeit more unfulfilled.


These personality types should be taken with a grain of salt. They aren’t gospel and they’re never entirely 100% accurate.

What matters most is how you integrate the lessons and traits from these personality types into your own life. Using them to help you in your development as a stronger man.

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