The Dialogue of Disciplines
New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Edited by Michael Harvey and Ronald E. Riggio
Chapter 14: Leadership in Literary Perspective
Nicholas O. Warner Literature abounds with depictions of leadership in virtually every area of life – political, religious, military, commercial, familial, educational, athletic – yet the topic of leadership in literature, as in other arts, has yet to receive the attention it deserves. Citations of imaginative literature in leadership studies tend to be fleeting and illustrative rather than analytical, while more extended discussions often approach literature as a resource for “tips” on successful leadership practices, especially in business.1 For their part, literary scholars have produced surprisingly few studies of leadership; the full-scale, professional analysis of leadership in literature is rare, though the number of instances of such an approach is gradually increasing. Unlike the situation in, say, organizational psychology or political science, it is still too early to identify key contributions made by literary criticism (or art history or film studies) to the study of leadership. Nor has the analysis of leadership in literature achieved sufficient critical mass to constitute a literary subfield along the lines of, say, eco-criticism or women’s studies. Consequently, this chapter will focus not on literary criticism’s contributions to leadership studies, but on the potential benefits of approaching leadership through literature. Such a discussion will, I hope, stimulate leadership scholars to look more closely at literature, and literary scholars to look more closely at leadership.2 Although leadership seems a natural fit with the study of politics and other social sciences, the political scientist Bryan D. Jones has pointed out that “Leadership in politics is one of the least...
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