Studies in Leadership: Leadership and Democratic Action

By Alvin W. Gouldner | Go to book overview

Is Scientific Leadership Selection Possible?1

BY JOSEPH W. EATON

THE SELECTION of qualified leaders is an important problem in any social order. Little is known about the processes that occur. What measurable qualities of personality and mechanisms of social engineering placed the American presidents into their positions of leadership, in spirited struggles against their contenders? How did Hitler evolve as "The Fuehrer" from the conglomeration of equally ambitious and often better educated charter members of the Nazi Party? We are no more enlightened about the ways through which lesser leaders reach their positions. We are at loss to predict their rise in a ladies' sewing circle, criminal gang, business corporation, or sport club on the basis of any measurable indexes.

We have some very interesting accounts on the descriptive level2 but they do not combine into any integrated body of data on the subject of leadership. While they contain some useful hypotheses, with a promise of showing some degree of validity and reliability, the area of scientific description of leadership is largely virgin soil. The application of scientific methods to find persons who will live up to specified normative or value expectations has not progressed very far. Science has been of little help in measuring the stuff a good mayor, an honest judge or an effective labor organizer are made of; and if

____________________
1
Reprinted with modifications from American Journal of Sociology, 1947, by permission of the editors. Copyright, 1947, by The University of Chicago Press.
2
Paul Pigors, Leadership or Domination ( New York, 1935); Ordway Tead, The Art of Leadership ( New York, 1935); Fritz Redl, "Group Emotion and Leadership," in Psychiatry, V, No. 4 ( November, 1942), 573-596.

-615-

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