Bio-inspired computation is one of the emerging soft computing techniques of the past decade. Although they do not guarantee optimality, the underlying reasons that make such algorithms become popular are indeed simplicity in implementation and being open to various improvements. Grey Wolf Optimizer (GWO), which derives inspiration from the hierarchical order and hunting behaviours of grey wolves in nature, is one of the new generation bio-inspired metaheuristics. GWO is first introduced to solve global optimization and mechanical design problems. Next, it has been applied to a variety of problems. As reported in numerous publications, GWO is shown to be a promising algorithm, however, the effects of characteristic mechanisms of GWO on solution quality has not been sufficiently discussed in the related literature. Accordingly, the present study analyses the effects of dominant wolves, which clearly have crucial effects on search capability of GWO and introduces new extensions, which are based on the variations of dominant wolves. In the first extension, three dominant wolves in GWO are evaluated first. Thus, an implicit local search without an additional computational cost is conducted at the beginning of each iteration. Only after repositioning of wolf council of higher-ranks, the rest of the pack is allowed to reposition. Secondarily, dominant wolves are exposed to learning curves so that the hierarchy amongst the leading wolves is established throughout generations. In the final modification, the procedures of the previous extensions are adopted simultaneously. The performances of all developed algorithms are tested on both constrained and unconstrained optimization problems including combinatorial problems such as uncapacitated facility location problem and 0-1 knapsack problem, which have numerous possible real-life applications. The proposed modifications are compared to the standard GWO, some other metaheuristic algorithms taken from the literature and Particle Swarm Optimization, which can be considered as a fundamental algorithm commonly employed in comparative studies. Finally, proposed algorithms are implemented on real-life cases of which the data are taken from the related publications. Statistically verified results point out significant improvements achieved by proposed modifications. In this regard, the results of the present study demonstrate that the dominant wolves have crucial effects on the performance of GWO. (C) 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.