Slide 1 of 28
An extensive literature on leadership exists: 1) historical writings, comprised of philosophies of leadership, e.g., Machiavelli’s The Prince, biographies of great leaders, and comparative works such as Plutarch’s Lives;
and 2) formal studies, written primarily after the development of the social sciences, of which Stogdill (1974) and later Bass (1981) have produced a masterly overview in The Handbook of Leadership. These studies have emerged from every discipline “that has had some interest in the subject of leadership: anthropology, business administration, educational administration, history, military science, nursing administration, organizational behavior, philosophy, political science, public administration, psychology, sociology, and theology.” (Rost, J. C. Leadership for the Twenty-first Century, p. 45)
Joseph Rost -- and many others, including James MacGregor Burns, Warren Bennis, and Henry Mintzberg -- goes on to argue that the entire history of modern leadership studies has been seriously flawed. First, because while everyone talks about leadership, no-one has satisfactorily defined what it actually is. Like art, we seem to know it only when we see it. Second, and on a related note, social scientists have primarily studied leadership from the context of their own fields and subfields, letting the discipline color the subseqent definition. So political scientists define leadership politically, group psychologists define it as group facilitation, education researchers see it as educational administration, and business researchers see it as management. The essence of leadership is both more complex and deeper than those fields.