Military Leadership: In Pursuit of Excellence

By Robert L. Taylor; William E. Rosenbach | Go to book overview

5
A New Vision of Leadership

Marshall Sashkin and William E. Rosenbach

Looking through the history of the study of leadership, we find that the earliest coherent thrust centered on an approach now referred to as the "Great Man" or "Great Person" theory. For a full generation, leadership scholars concentrated on identifying the traits associated with great leadership. At first it seemed obvious; are not great leaders exceptionally intelligent, unusually energetic, far above the norm in their ability to speak to followers, and so on? However, when these "obvious" propositions were subjected to test, they all proved false. Yes, leaders were found to be a bit more intelligent than the average, but not much more. And yes, they were more energetic and dynamic -- but not significantly so. True, they were better-thanaverage public speakers, but again their overall advantage was not very great. And so it went: Each of these and other leadership myths evaporated under the glare of scientific scrutiny.

What followed was a focus on the behavior of leaders. If the key was not who they were, perhaps the crux of leadership could be found in what they did. In fact, researchers were able to identify two crucial types of leader behavior: behavior centered on task accomplishments and behavior directed toward interpersonal relations. Their peers typically reported individuals who consistently exhibited high levels of both of these types of behavior as leaders. Those who engaged in a high level of task-related activity but only an average level of relationship-centered behavior were sometimes still designated leaders. Those who engaged only in a high level of relationship behavior were rarely designated leaders by their peers. Finally, those who did

This chapter can also be found in Contemporary Issues in Leadersbip, 4th ed. ( Boulder: Westview Press, 1998).

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