- New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Chapter 3: Fictionalization of Leadership
Our senses don’t deceive us: our judgment does. (Goethe) ONCE A LEADER, ALWAYS A LEADER? It is surprising to what extent people in the Western world who are diverse in age, education, gender and socioeconomic status cite the same names when they are asked to give examples of leadership. Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, George Washington, Charles de Gaulle, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mustafa Ataturk, David Ben-Gurion, Thomas Jefferson, Pierre Elliott Trudeau and John Kennedy are always mentioned. Many people think that great leaders belong only to the past; they long for them and refer to them as a standard by which to compare the leaders of today and explain why they are not real leaders like those who existed in the past. This list of names1 arouses some questions to which I alluded in relation to the psychological explanations presented in the previous chapter. Was Churchill a projection screen – a source of unwitting attraction of the followers to the leader – whose psychological validity was relevant only during wartime? Why were leaders like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, who kept slaves, considered symbols of leaders with high moral principles? Were they carved out of the ‘right’ narrative materials that made it possible to ignore these facts? In general why do some people and not others constitute the materials for the ‘right story’, which becomes a narrative of leadership that lives beyond their time? And what are these narrative materials? How is it that a certain person (e.g...
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