The leadership of the Iban people, who mostly live in Borneo, has been one of the most controversial topics in Iban studies. However, most of the previous studies on the leadership of Ibans consider the "Iban society" as a closed coherent system. This paper aims to reconsider the leadership of the Iban by firstly overviewing several important ethnographies of Borneo from Austronesian comparative studies. The leadership of the Iban people in Borneo can be explained from the perspective of "precedence." Secondly, several significant previous studies related to the leadership of Iban are reviewed that tend to essentialize the "traditional Iban society" based on the consideration that either the Iban society is a coherent whole or that some Iban people are more traditional than the others. To overcome the problem of essentialism, it is presupposed that contradictory norms or inconsistent practices can coexist in "society." It is also necessary to consider the leadership of Iban people in the historical context, which, in long-settled areas, leaned towards "precedentialism" because of the existing piracy and close relations with Malay leaders. In contrast, the Iban leadership of pioneers tends to be "egalitarianism" mainly because of the policies of the colonial government, sporadic warfare, and increasing trade. The conclusions suggest that on the basis of particular historical contexts, Iban people could be compared to people living in insular Southeast Asia, who expanded during the 18th and 19th centuries.