Studies in Leadership: Leadership and Democratic Action

By Alvin W. Gouldner | Go to book overview

Contexts: Bureaucrats and Agitators

AS OUR preceding discussion indicates, social psychologists have had great difficulty in sifting out traits common to a number of leaders. This, in conjunction with their failure to provide dimensions in terms of which "situations" could be compared, has impeded their ability to establish types of leaders. In consequence, this section which deals with types of leaders must be based principally upon the work of sociologists.

Their comparative success in establishing types rests in the main on the distinctions which they have made between different types of situations--or that part of situations to which they have devoted considerable study, social structures. Like the situationist psychologists, the sociologists believe that the structures in which leaders operate compel different forms of leadership behavior. The sociologists have succeeded, however, in abstracting from the variety of unique, concrete social structures, certain aspects by which some structures tend to be characterized when contrasted with others. On the basis of these distinctions they have constructed typical structures and have attempted to analyze aspects of the behavior of leaders within these as responses to the structure.

Any such structure, for example, the "bureaucracy," is not intended to represent a concrete organization. It is instead an ideal type, in which certain tendencies of concrete structures are highlighted by emphasis. Not every formal association will possess all the characteristics incorporated into the ideal-type bureaucracy. The ideal type may be used as a yardstick enabling us to determine in which particular respects an actual organization is bureaucratized. It may also enable us to state which of two concrete organizations is most bureaucratized. The ideal-type bureaucracy may be used much as a twelve-inch ruler is employed. We would not expect, for example,

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