Thinking Differently about Leadership
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Thinking Differently about Leadership

A Critical History of Leadership Studies

Suze Wilson

This book is a critical historical analysis of leadership thought in the Western tradition, examining Classical Greek, medieval and modern social scientific theories of leadership, focussing on the assumptions and effects which arise from these ways of understanding leadership and offering a new basis for leadership theory-building.
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Chapter 3: The Classical Greek truth about leadership

Suze Wilson


According to the above, it is only when a leader with great wisdom and unlimited authority is in charge that the well-being of humanity can be achieved. Effective leadership here rests on the leader’s ‘capacity to grasp the eternal and immutable’ truth, entails the right to exercise absolute authority and is fundamental to the happiness of followers. The leader, he who knows best, is consequently said to be entitled not simply to respect but also to deference to all his decisions, without dialogue and without dissent: followers are to submit their will to that of the leader, to silence their voices, to do his bidding. A totalitarian model of leadership which produces transformational effects for followers is, thus, the proposition. Complete submission and total obedience to the leader are said to be critical to securing happiness. In what follows I show how this understanding of leadership came to be. This chapter examines the form and formation of the Classical Greek scholarly understanding of leadership, a body of knowledge deeply informed by the social context in which it developed. I begin by considering the issues deemed problematic which inform this discourse before turning to examine its key features.

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