Table of Contents

Extreme Leadership

Extreme Leadership

Leaders, Teams and Situations Outside the Norm

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Edited by Cristina M. Giannantonio and Amy E. Hurley-Hanson

Much has been written about how leaders and teams function in traditional business settings, but there is comparatively scant literature on the behaviors of leaders and teams facing extreme situations: that is, situations that fall outside the scope of daily experience. This book presents cases drawn from a diverse set of non-traditional and extreme leadership scenarios, offering a fresh perspective on both leadership research and management practice.

Chapter 13: Glenn Miller: leadership lessons from a successful big band musician

Michael J. Urick and Therese A. Sprinkle

Subjects: politics and public policy, leadership


When one thinks of an ‘extreme’ leader, Glenn Miller, the famous big band leader from the 1930s and 1940s, may not be the first person who comes to mind. Yet, Miller is famous not only for revolutionizing the music industry, but also for inspiring a fragile United States public disturbed by the effects of the Second World War; a critical period of time for the US marked by uneasiness and uncertainty. As an emblem of patriotism at home and abroad, Miller faced a unique situation that fell outside the norm of the experiences of any other musician or leader, thereby making his case an excellent example of ‘extreme’ leadership.This chapter will explore Miller’s leadership through the lens of Transformational Leadership Theory and Complexity Theory to analyze the role of an ‘extreme’ context in his effectiveness. The application of these theories suggests a new model of ‘extreme’ leadership that shows how success and effectiveness are related to the complex interplay of a leader’s characteristics and abilities with environmental factors. In applying this new model, Miller’s behaviors and successes are offered as a case study of an effective ‘extreme’ leader. Overall, there are two main purposes of this chapter. The first is to illustrate that the nature of an ‘extreme’ context drives which particular leader traits or behaviors are important for success to occur.

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