A village head is a community leader in a small town or village with a simple political structure. Village heads are often associated with tribal life, where members of the community usually have close genetic and social connections. The system for selecting a head varies, depending on the region and the cultural traditions. A number of studies have been conducted on village life to learn more about the political systems used in communities all over the world.
Commonly, the village head is a community elder, reflecting common social attitudes that older adults are to be respected and revered. Community elders may be viewed as natural authorities on a number of topics, and they also have considerable influence, making them good choices for village leadership. Some are elected from a pool of candidates, while others may hold an inherited position, training to become the village head from a young age.
Usually, the village head's authority is limited. This person can act as a mediator in disputes and may make recommendations, but cannot compel parties to abide by a resolution. Likewise, village heads cannot order residents of the village to complete activities. Typically, authority is exerted by promoting cooperative measures to address different aspects of village life, like hunting, security, gardening, and so forth. The village head may lead by example, encouraging other members of the village to complete tasks by starting them and asking people to take over.
In some regions, a village head may also be a religious leader for the community, while in others, this is not the case. Village heads may have ceremonial duties and responsibilities, including leading community meetings, parceling out resources to members of the community, and overseeing events like marriages. The village head may have ceremonial garments and props to use during these events.
Often, this position is held by a man, but this is not always the case. Some communities have village heads in a mixture of genders, while in others, women may be expected to take on leadership positions. The village head usually communicates with other villages in the area and may be responsible for organizing cooperative events, ranging from defenses of a region from military incursions to regional fairs and parties.
Anthropologists interested in tribal political structures may encounter village heads while doing fieldwork. Anthropologists visiting a village or area often need permission from village heads to proceed with activities like harvesting plants or interacting with residents.