Definition: It is better to be the leader of a less prestigious organization than a follower in a more prestigious one.
This proverb refers to the pride people feel in the groups with which the associate. Sometimes people want to join a group that sounds fancier or of higher status, but, in such a group, they would be a low-ranking member.
This proverb suggests that being in a group just because it sounds impressive is not worth it if you have to become a follower in that group. The lesson is that the opportunity to be a leader is worth more than being a part of something for its name alone.
Origin of Better to Be the Head of a Dog Than the Tail of a Lion
There are similar proverbs in nearly every culture throughout history. Such proverbs are hundreds of years old, and it’s difficult to trace them to any single origin story.
Examples include better to be a big fish in a little pond, better to be a big frog in a small pond, and better to be the head of foxes than the tail of lions.
Examples of Better to Be the Head of a Dog Than the Tail of a Lion
Nowadays, people mostly use this phrase to refer to job status. If someone is undecided between two jobs, one of which has more responsibility and leadership potential and the other of which has a prestigious name solely, someone may give the advice that is it is better to be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion.
This phrase is not commonly used today, so you would be unlikely to see it in writing.
The phrase better to be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion advises people to take the opportunity to be leaders.