The Quest for a General Theory of Leadership

The Quest for a General Theory of Leadership

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Edited by George R. Goethals and Georgia L.J. Sorenson

In this compelling book, top scholars from diverse fields describe the progress they have made in developing a general theory of leadership. Led by James MacGregor Burns, Pulitzer Prize winning author of the classic Leadership (1978), they tell the story of this intellectual venture and the conclusions and questions that arose from it.

Chapter 10: What We Learned Along the Way: A Commentary

Joanne B. Ciulla

Subjects: politics and public policy, leadership


Joanne B. Ciulla If the only purpose of our quest was to arrive at a general theory of leadership, then it was a terrific failure. We sometimes disagreed on which way to go, we got irritable and lost, and we did not even visit all of the areas of leadership studies. Nevertheless, like all great quests, ours was never really about finding the Holy Grail of leadership studies; it was about the journey. It took us away from the constraints of our disciplines and homes in academia. When we got lost, we found ourselves in surprising new places, some of which are described in this book. This chapter is a commentary on the journey and what we learned along the way. Some General Observations The chapters in this book are eclectic in style and content. For example, we have Tom Wren’s dialogue with Liz Faier on context, and Michael Harvey’s account of our Mount Hope papers, framed as a story about the beginnings of leadership in some primordial state of nature. Not only are the styles of writing in the chapters different, the essays themselves are idiosyncratic. Each chapter reflects the research interests, and academic background, of the authors. Mark Walker compares theories of leadership to theories of international relations. Gill Hick­ man and Dick Couto anchor their discussion around a case study from the civil rights movement. Terry Price and Doug Hicks use the concept of equality to write about ethics. Like the rest of the chapters, this commentary...

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