Rank and Leadership in Nduindui, Northern New Hebrides
THE IDEAL MODEL of the Melanesian big-man system of leadership is now well established in anthropological literature and has figured prominently in a number of theoretical and descriptive studies. The defining characteristic of the model is that such structural prerequisites as age, generation or either kin or local group membership are of minimal importance in the selection of leaders and in the definition of authority, 'The attainment of big-man status i~ rather the outcome of a series of acts which elevate a person above the common herd and attract about him a coterie of loyal, lesser men' (Sahlins 1963:291 ). The kind and degree of authority achieved by such leaders is directly dependent on their individual ability to create dependants and attract followers; and they do this in the competitive context of exchange transactions, oratory, warfare, sorcery etc. The personal qualities required of a leader are of such a kind that the great majority of men possess them, though in varying degrees.
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