Twentieth Century Psychology: Recent Developments in Psychology

By Philip Lawrence Harriman | Go to book overview

TRAINING IN DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP*

ALEX BAVELAS AND KURT LEWIN University of Iowa

This is a preliminary report about a rapid retraining of mediocre leaders into efficient democratic leaders.1

Good leadership is recognized as one of the outstanding conditions in any field of group life or cooperative endeavor. Large organizations, such as the W.P.A., Boy Scouts, Y.M.C.A., school systems, factory organizations, all require leadership for the organization as a whole (head-leader), and leadership for the smaller groups which actually make up the body of that organization (sub-leader). We shall speak here of the latter type of leadership, although we believe that the former does not present fundamentally different problems.

In regard to the head-leader, it is essential for an organization to get the best person available. In regard to the hundreds of sub-leaders working in a large organization it is one of the major considerations to eliminate the inefficiency caused by the poorer leaders because they account for a disproportionate amount of the trouble and avoidable expense.

Poor leadership can be eliminated either by careful selection and, if necessary, dismissal of personnel, or by training. The difficulty of predicting leadership ability is known to be great. Dismissal involves much waste and expense. In recognition of this situation, training of leaders has been widely attempted. However, frequently it has not been very satisfactory. Also,

____________________
*
A cooperative study of the Child Welfare Research Station, University of Iowa, the W.P.A. of the State of Iowa, and the Jewish Community Center, Des Moines.
1
For a more detailed account, see Bavelas A. Morale and leadership training. In Yearbook of the Sociay for the psychological study of social issues. (In press.)

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