- New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Chapter 2: Leadership as a Psychological Phenomenon
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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