A Critical History of Leadership Studies
New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Chapter 1: Why leadership?
We have come to live in an age where leadership is the solution, regardless of the problem. Pre-eminent leadership scholar Bernard Bass is even willing to declare that ‘there is no question’ about just how vital leadership is. As part of this, managers are now routinely expected to be ‘visionary’, ‘charismatic’, ‘transformational’ and ‘authentic’ leaders, creating ‘breakthrough strategies’ and ‘inspiring’ employees to ever higher levels of performance. Leadership, it is now widely thought, is the vital ingredient which enables organizations to achieve their goals and have a highly productive, engaged workforce. These days, whatever the challenge, we are presumed lost without leadership. But with leadership, anything and everything becomes possible – anything, it seems, except thinking differently about leadership itself, because its value, its potency and what we expect from it are now beyond doubt: whatever the issue, leadership is the answer. Research on leadership has grown rapidly in recent decades, simultaneously reflecting and feeding our intense interest in this topic. The efforts of academics in promoting ‘visionary’, ‘charismatic’, ‘transformational’ and ‘authentic’ approaches to leadership means that these ideas are typically understood as modern, enlightened and grounded in scientific research. Yet, in the vast, confusing and often contradictory body of recent literature on leadership, only rarely is the confidence we have that leadership constitutes the panacea for all manner of organizational and social challenges questioned.