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Humans are Leaders

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"Look, little girl. When you want a problem shot, ask a turian. When you want a problem talked to death, ask an asari. When you want a new problem, ask a salarian. When you want a problem fixed, ask a human."
Commander Shepard (Renegade option), Mass Effect 2

In general, wherever humans coexist with other races, the humans tend to be the dominant or driving force in whatever effort they're involved in. They're the ones who tend to be the guys behind creating The Alliance and holding it together, the ones coming up with most of the plans on how to thwart The Empire, or—in somewhat darker settings—the ones able to manipulate other races into doing their bidding for them. If a Five-Man Band is made of five different species, then the human will be The Leader; if Humans Are Average, this may overlap with Standardized Leader.

What's really interesting is this is actually quite justified. Most evolutionary biologists are certain that a greater ability to cooperate and coordinate than any other species is one of the two traits that enabled humanity to conquer the planet in real life (the other being tool use). Thus, in a world with other sentient species, it would naturally follow that humans would be better at leading compared to others, possibly to the point of leadership being humanity's hat.

This trope is a specific permutation of Humans Are Special. While it can be found in all forms of media, it's particularly prevalent in video games, where it usually translates into some kind of bonus to diplomacy.

Compare and contrast Humans Are Warriors; both may be in play at the same time, but usually it's either one or the other. Definitely contrast with Humans Are Morons. Mighty Whitey is an earthbound sister trope. Goes hand-in-hand with Humans Are Diplomats, and occasionally with Humanity Is Superior. Probably influenced by Most Writers Are Human as well.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Delicious in Dungeon, Team Touden is lead by Laios (and Falin until they lost her) and Team Kabru and Team Shuro are lead by, obviously, Kabru and Shuro. All four are human while most members of their parties are elves, dwarves, etc.
  • Doraemon: Nobita's Drifts in the Universe has Nobita and friends meeting the Space Knights, the leader Lian being the Token Human. There's also the leader of the Milky Way Drifting Fleet's army, Lian's father Commander Liebert who's calling the shots behind military operations, though the Drifting Fleet's chairman is a fish-like alien.

    Comic Books 
  • Captain America is generally recognised as The Leader in the Marvel Universe, as displayed in Comic Book/Infinity, when he leads the combined Shiar/Kree/Skrull fleet, spearheaded by the Imperial Guard and the Avengers. It even goes beyond the Marvel Universe to the DC universe, when Superman nominates him to command the combined Avengers and Justice League team against Krona, something Batman concurs with.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • As in the various TV series, the Star Trek movies play this trope straight. Humans are almost always in charge, with aliens acting in an advisory capacity if they are present at all.
    • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the daughter of the Klingon chancellor calls this out explicitly. It would probably have hit harder if not for the fact the Federation President of the time was non-human.
    Azetbur: "The Federation is no more than a homo sapiens only club."
    • In Star Trek Into Darkness, when a Starfleet Command meeting is called everyone at the table is either a human or a Half-Human Hybrid/Human Alien. No obvious aliens are present at all.
      • This could reflect the divergence from the original timeline, but even there, despite numerous aliens in civilian leadership positions, we rarely saw non-humans in high positions within Starlet itself.
  • In Star Wars, the Rebellion against The Empire was mostly started by humans. Alien Rebels only appeared in the later episodes, though the Star Wars Expanded Universe gives alien races more importance in the start of the Rebellion. Also, in the prequels, the two Supreme Chancellors we see are humans.
    • The EU actually does make a point, in the X-Wing Series while handling Fantastic Racism, that in the beginning, and around the battle of Yavin, humans were the ones who were putting themselves on the line, especially considering that the Death Star was functioning. There were nonhumans at various levels contributing, but at the time it was predominantly a human effort, and only after the success at Yavin did others start to support the movement more openly.
      • Admiral Ackbar, for example, was openly part of the Rebel Alliance and brought some resources and some of his people with him, but he didn't become a major element of Alliance High Command until after Yavin, after winning some smaller victories and gaining the support of the Mon Calamari.
      • It should be noted that the Rebellion would likely never succeed without Ackbar and the Mon Calamari ships, which are the most capable of Rebel ships in terms of having a snowball's chance in hell of surviving a slugfest with an Imperial Star Destroyer.
    • Though this isn't terribly unexpected since humans were always the majority species in the Star Wars galaxy. And it's worth noting that humans started and comprised the majority of the Empire, too.


  • In John D. MacDonald's Ballroom of the Skies, the galactic government deliberately keeps Earth impoverished and war-torn ... because that toughens Earthpeople spiritually to the point that they make good recruits — to run the galactic government.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan designates humans as Narnia's ruling class, although the human royals do interbreed with nature spirits and the like over time.
  • In one of Gordon R. Dickson's stories, the aliens of a far distant planet are extremely glad to see humans jetting around again, taking charge of things—because none of them really want all that trouble.
  • Discworld: Not too surprising, as humans appear to be the most populous species. But in Ankh-Morpork, dwarfs, trolls, and vampires are factions that Vetinari and the Watch deal with like any other guild.
  • In E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman stories the humans of Earth Tellus led and provided most of the membership of the Galactic Patrol, even though other races were involved.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Andromeda while the Systems Commonwealth was founded by the Vedrans humans quickly made themselves into the "backbone" of the Commonwealth. In addition many governments established during the Long Night after the fall of the Commonwealth were led by humans, for better or for worse, and of course Captain Hunt with his mission to restore the Commonwealth is human (well, half-human). The Restored Commonwealth is also led by three humans (it helps that there are no Vedrans to be found).
  • Babylon 5 has this but less blatantly. Humanity's hat is that they build communities wherever they go; any other species would have built the Babylon 5 for their own use only. More blatantly, the card game based on the series has a human-only agenda (a victory condition) called "Leading the Races", which allows you to win by playing a human faction with lots of different alien species in it.
  • In Farscape, the very human-like Sebaceans are one of the two major powers in the galaxy. As it turns out, they actually are genetically-engineered proto-humans from way back. As for the main cast, though the human Crichton is the main character, he isn't the leader - when they finally choose one, it's D'Argo.
  • Stargate SG-1 in spades. Let's face it the Tok'ra and Asgard have been spinning their wheels for millennia - and the Nox, the Tollan, and the Ancients aren't even trying. But when four man teams of Earthpeople get in the mix we get solutions for problems like the Goa'uld, the Replicators, the Ori, the Wraith...! Sure, we cause a lot of new problems too, but hell, we get things done! Defenders of three galaxies people; At least the Ancients, Nox, Furlings, and Asgard supposedly had each other to lean on for active help.
    • The Nox and the Tollan are understandable candidates for the "not trying," award, but to lump the Ancients in with them? The Ancients have been extinct for about ten thousand years, as of the current time. The very threat of Asgard intervention put a massive damper on Goa'uld expansion and kept them in check, while the Tok'ra kept the System Lords in a state of semi-constant war for most of their history. Were it not for these factors, Earth might have been conquered long ago. Still, the humans of Earth managed to take down the Goa'uld, Replicators, and Ori less than twelve years after their first off-world mission.
  • In Star Trek, humans are largely implied to be the driving force of The Federation, particularly considering that its headquarters is on Earth and most Starfleet officers (that we've seen) are human.
    • Vulcans in Star Trek: Enterprise label this as one of the Human's Hats. Humans are brash and more prone to throw caution to the wind when making decisions, but their curiosity to explore the unknown allows them to adapt so easily to different situations and environments that they excel as diplomats and mediators. They also believe that humans always feel the need to organize something, anything.
    • This is, in fact, how The Federation was formed, by humanity uniting several species that otherwise hated each other to respond to a common threat.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In early editions, only humans were allowed to be Paladins, the natural party leader class. This was Justified by the D&D universe being "humanocentric", with humans as the most dominant race. Later explanations fleshed the concept out more, in that humans make up for their short lifespans and lack of specialized ability in any given area (elves for magic, dwarves for blacksmithing, etc.) with an ambition and drive longer-lived races lack and a knack for being able to become skilled in almost any profession, in essence becoming an entire race of Jacks Of All Trades. By comparison, dwarves tended to not be very skilled at magic, halflings weren't the most skilled fighters, etc.
    • Somewhat subverted in some editions (notably third and fourth) because for all the vaunted drive and flexibility of humans, the 'stock' player character race that gets the most obvious social bonuses are instead the half-elves. (Of course, most settings then fail to make much of that.)
  • In Myriad Song the resident Abusive Precursors used humans as slave overseers and human aristocrats still rule the Remanence. Mechanically all humans, even commoners, start out with the Leadership Gift and apply their Legacy trait to Tactics.
  • Traveller. Humans rule most major states. This is because humans are better organized, more ambitious and more militarily efficient then others. And thus Asskicking Leads to Leadership. All three Imperiums were human led, though there are many of other species among the Imperial nobility.
  • In the Pen and Paper World of Warcraft D20 RPG, humans had bonuses to their diplomacy.

    Video Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls, while there are several races of Men, they (mostly) more closely fit the Humans Are Warriors mold. The exception are the aptly-named Imperials, who have been at the epicenter of Tamrielic politics since St. Alessia, and have founded three empires (under the Alessian, Reman, and Septim dynasties) from their home of Cyrodiil. While their Imperial Legions obviously play a large part in forging their empires, it is their ability as leaders, diplomats, and merchants that keep their empires together. At times in their various dynasties, they've had members of the other races (most notably Nords, Bretons, and even one prominent Dunmer/Dark Elf) in the position of Emperor (or Empress) while successfully maintaining their empires. While other races have, throughout history, also successfully taken over large parts of Tamriel, none have been as successful in ruling it as the various Cyrodiilic Empires. In-game, this trait typically manifests as bonuses to the Speechcraft skill and/or racial abilities that act as Calm or Command spells.
  • In the Galactic Civilizations games, the Terran Alliance has an edge in diplomacy over most other races.
  • In The Legend of Zelda, the Hylians are always portrayed as the "leader race," with the Royal Family of Hyrule in charge of the whole kingdom having universally been Hylians while the non-Hylians pretty much only have jurisdiction over their own provinces. In fact, the only non-Hylian portrayed as being actively in charge of Hyrule at any point is Ganondorf, a member of the similarly human-like Gerudo race. The only exception to the rule has been the Beast Man Rauru. According to legend, Hylians were chosen by the Golden Goddess Farore to uphold the world's natural laws.
  • Things essentially end up this way in Mass Effect whether or not you kill off the council. Humanity shakes up most of Citadel Space's politics, military defense, and home security, both by its flaws and strengths. In a sense, humanity is the ultimate anti-complacency factor, as complacency is probably the Council's greatest flaw: they love putting hats on everything and each species eventually settles into one. However, humanity's role as a Jack of All Stats makes their only hat a refusal to have a hat.
    • The exact process depends on the player character, but the end result is the entire galaxy acknowledging that humans - specifically this Memetic Badass they've given the galaxy - get results. Paragon Shepard is the more understanding, "we need to earn respect" type, while Renegade Shepard is...quoted above.
    • Humans Advance Swiftly is also present, as it took humanity a grand total of 30 years to go from First Contact to a seat on the ruling Council. The Council has existed for millenia, and every other sentient race joining the galactic community was just made a client race (save the Turians, who got their seat for almost single-handedly putting down the Krogan Rebellions). Humanity basically blusters its way in by showing up, expecting to be given a Council seat, and then getting annoyed that it's taking so long for the Council to catch up and do it already. And it works!
    • Played subtly straight during the Suicide Mission finale of Mass Effect 2: for each mission-critical role, two of three ideal candidates are from a species that has that specialization as its hat: quarians and geth for tech, asari for biotics, etc. However, for the secondary leader role (which becomes relevant twice), two of the ideal choices are humans and only one is a turian (a species generally positioned as humanity's primary, albeit relatively amicable rivals).
    • In the third game, Paragon Shepard is shown to be capable of ending the Krogan genophage, allying the Krogan with the Turians, get the help of the Rachni, end the 300-year-long war between the Geth and the Quarians, make most of the Salarian STG defect in order to help them... oh, and berating Balak, who utterly despises Shepard, to lend the Batarian fleet to the cause, whilst he has a gun pointed at Shepard's head. Most of the characters react with utter bewilderment that Shepard, in the matter of a few months, manages to solve problems that the Council has failed at fixing for over 1000 years.
    • While we're on the subject of the third game, it's revealed that humanity became the leaders of the galaxy in the war against the Reapers entirely against the Protheans' expectations. They were expecting the Asari to become the leaders of this cycle, and so seeded their world with artefacts and technology to give them a headstart in their development, but the Asari leadership foolishly squandered it instead, leaving the galaxy hopelessly unprepared for the Reapers. The last surviving Prothean you unfreeze from stasis is surprised that the Dumb Earthlings that his people dismissed as a minor player at best are the ones who are actually stepping up and rallying the other races.
  • In the Master of Orion series, the humans tend to be average in terms of most stats (though having a slight edge in research overall except against the Psilons), but they have a massive diplomacy bonus that allows them to easily make friends with all other races (who tend to have at least one major rival each) as well as the ability to get benefits from trade treaties much more quickly.
    • The background information for Master of Orion III shows that it was a human-led alliance that destroyed the Guardian. Of course, the humans then took the lion's share of the spoils, much to the chagrin of the other races. Humans were also instrumental in stopping the Antareans (or so they thought).
  • The Reconstruction justifies it through a lack of competition. Of the other two sentient species in the setting, the shra have a tendency to follow whoever seems strongest, the fortians don't care much about outside affairs, and the fih'jik are traditionalistic to a fault, leaving humans as the primary explorers and leaders.
  • Toyed with in Star Control. The original Alliance of Free Stars, which included humanity, was actually headed by the Chenjesu, who recruited humanity for their fight against the Ur-Quan. However, the Alliance that springs up in Star Control II, after the first one failed, is lead by a human (the player character), with the Earth Starbase as the main headquarters.
    • And the Chmmr take their role in all but name once you get all the relevant plot coupons to complete the second game.
  • Related to the Star Trek example above, Humans in Star Trek Online are the only race with the Leadership trait, which is exceptionally beneficial for speeding up the rate of your ship's hull repair. In layman's terms, they increase the regeneration of your ship's HP.
  • Playable humans in World of Warcraft represent one of the last two human nations still standing, and other members of the Alliance like the dwarves should in theory have more soldiers and a stronger army than them, but look at any conflict where the Alliance is present and chances are most of the commanders and soldiers will be humans. Campaigns in Outland, Northrend, Vashj'ir, Lordaeron? All led by humans, with token presence from other races. The only exceptions are when the conflict takes place in another race's backyard (Ashenvale).

  • Webcomic/orderOfTheStick: Part of Tarquin's Genre Blindness (ironically enough for someone who functions on Genre Savvy) is thinking that his son is The Hero in a party composed of three humans, an elf, a dwarf, and a halfling. Elan knows that the big story is about Roy, who has a more personal connection with the Big Bad Xykon, but his father can't see past his own rigid ideas of how a story goes.

    Western Animation 
  • Probably a coincidence, but for a short time Bouncing Boy is designated as leader for the Legion of Super Heroes (2006). Guess which planet he's from. Go on.
  • A slight variation: Teen Titans. There is only one alien in the group, Starfire, and a half demon, Raven. But Beast Boy and Cyborg have powers. Robin, the only completely normal Human on the team, is considered leader.