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Leadership scholarship: all bridges have been burned

Jon Aarum Andersen

Keywords: leadership theories; assumptions on organisations; definitions of leadership; explanation; understanding; method


The aim of this article is to enhance the understanding of the present state of leadership scholarship by describing similarities between leadership theories and underlining significant differences between them. Based on four criteria, two broad groups of leadership theories are identifiable. These two groups are fundamentally different with respect to the conceptions of both organisations and leadership. While one group of theories concentrates on descriptions and understandings of leadership processes, the other group emphasises causal relationships between leadership and organisational outcomes. A critical result of the divergent emphases is that the theoretical relationships between these two groups of scholarship appear to have ended. Advancements in one area may no longer be beneficial to other areas. This article stresses that it is necessary to come to grips with the consequences of the present fissured state in leadership research.

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