Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Principles of Outstanding Leadership: Dale Carnegie's Folk Epistemology

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Principles of Outstanding Leadership: Dale Carnegie's Folk Epistemology

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

The purpose of this article is to examine how Carnegie's principles can be used to describe three types of outstanding leadership: charismatic, ideological, and pragmatic. We explain Dale Carnegie's principles, assess which of these principles underlie particular types of outstanding leadership, and illustrate how the exemplary outstanding leadership of Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John Rockefeller, Jr. can be explained in terms of Carnegie's principles. This article contributes an integrative framework which links Carnegie's folk theory of leadership with Mumford's comprehensive research on charismatic, ideological, and pragmatic leadership.


What originated in 1912 as one man's conviction of the importance of teaching people how to collaborate with one another in business settings and everyday life has now evolved into a worldwide training and consulting program serving companies in all 50 United States and 75 international countries (Kemp & Claflin, 1989; Parker, 1977). Dale Carnegie's subsisting principles continue to exert powerful influence on corporate America through his books (e.g. Carnegie, 1936; 1944; 1952) as well as the "Dale Carnegie Training Programs" which have generated over 7 million graduates. Carnegie's best seller, How to Win Friends and Influence People, has sold more than 15 million copies since the book was published in 1936. On September 13, 2006, Dale Carnegie was honored with other influential Americans such as Harry S. Truman, Walt Disney, and Mark Twain in the Hall of Famous Missourians. To be honored alongside these historical figures is a testament to the influence Dale Carnegie has had through his collection and articulation of epistemological beliefs and folk wisdom of the American culture (Dale Carnegie Training, 2006).

Dale Carnegie's books epitomize folk epistemology (Duke & Novicevic, 2008), which refers to an average person's common-sense theory of knowledge (Kitchener, 2002). Personal epistemology is a form of folk epistemology that is concerned with how an individual develops knowledge and beliefs (Hofer & Pintrich, 2002). Dale Carnegie's (1936) book presented a personal folk-epistemic view of effective influence (Peterson, 2000; Wilson & Cash, 2000; Woodstock, 2005). As Carnegie has become widely known for this folk theory of how to influence others, his followers have argued that his prescriptions could be applied to the conceptualization of leadership as a process of influence. His conceptualization of how to influence people was organized into 16 principles that describe the relationship between leadership and follower's underlying epistemological values and beliefs (Levine & Crom, 1993).

The purpose of this paper is to examine how Carnegie's principles can be applied to describe three outstanding leadership styles: charismatic, ideological, and pragmatic. Following Mumford & Van Doom (2001) and Mumford, Gaddis, Strange, and Scott (2006), we first define each of these leadership styles and provide commensurate characteristics of the leaders that exhibit these styles. Second, we explain each of Carnegie's principles and determine which of these principles underlie a particular type of leadership. Finally, we use Carnegie's principles to describe three exemplary leaders that epitomize each style of outstanding leadership: Henry Ford as charismatic, Andrew Carnegie as pragmatic, and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. as an ideological outstanding leader.

Types of Outstanding Leadership

The process through which leaders influence followers has been a prominent area of research for many years, but the intricacies within this dyadic relationship still deserve research attention (Day, 2001; Humphreys, Pryor, Pane, & Oyler, 2009). This study investigates the concept of outstanding leadership, which refers to leaders who influence not only their followers, but also institutions, society, and even the world (Gardner, 1993; Mumford, 2006). …

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