Fact and Fantasy about Leadership

Fact and Fantasy about Leadership

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Micha Popper

This inspiring book posits that followers are the key to understanding the leadership phenomenon. It analyses leader–follower dynamics in social and organizational settings and in politics which will strongly appeal to students of social psychology, sociology, management and political sciences. The book provides examples and in-depth analyses of ‘the psychology of followership in everyday life’ and will therefore prove invaluable for managers. A special emphasis is given to leader–follower dynamics at various levels of organizational life.

Chapter 2: Leadership as a Psychological Phenomenon

Micha Popper

Subjects: business and management, business leadership, organisational behaviour, politics and public policy, leadership

Extract

Towards the end of 2008 a search in Google yielded 288 million mentions of the word leader, 159 million mentions of leadership and 10 million of followership. A careful scrutiny of the contents of these items can serve as a database for some fascinating research on the way in which these subjects are presented in popular literature, academic publications, conferences – in fact every means of communication. However, a cursory glance at the major categories reveals the nature of the interest in these subjects. The main topic of interest is the leader – their personality, characteristics, behaviours and what they say. Under the heading ‘leadership’ there are journals, research foundations and institutes that are mainly occupied with questions such as who is a leader, how one becomes a leader or how leadership can be improved. The psychological research on leadership also reflects the tendency to focus on the leader. This began over a hundred years ago, when an American scholar named Terman attempted to identify what characteristics distinguish between leaders and others.1 Terman sought these characteristics through observation in schools and reports of teachers and students. His research findings indicated that the results of his observations were congruent with the reports of friends and teachers. According to the findings the leaders were taller, better dressed and more fluent in speech and reading than their friends. Terman’s choice of research method and variables can only be understood if we are familiar with the context in which the research was conducted. First, the psychological...

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