Studies in Leadership: Leadership and Democratic Action

By Alvin W. Gouldner | Go to book overview

Elements and Problems of Democratic Leadership1

BY BERNARD KUTNER

SEVERAL ASSUMPTIONS are made by a group when it forms for democratic action. First, it is assumed that in organizing itself, the power and authority necessary to conduct the work of the group must be delegated to individual members or subgroups. Secondly, a leader in a democratic group is ascribed authority and invested with certain defined powers. Finally, it is deemed illegitimate for a leader to assume powers not specifically delegated by the group or its governing rules. The final authority in any democratic group thus rests ultimately with the membership. It does not merely derive from, but it is felt to maintain residence in, the group.

A group organized for action may select its leaders by democratic methods, through some form of referendum or group agreement. These may include a central organizational leader and other subleaders (e.g., committee chairman or special functionaries). However, even before leaders are selected, a group must decide upon its goals and its methods for achieving them. The leader would, in a democratic group, be an individual who serves the group in various ways but, primarily, represents the group's goals and interests. Democratic leaders, to be really democratic, would homologously reflect the group they serve and must set aside personal interests or those of some special subgroup.

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1
This is a previously unpublished paper.

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