Leadership studies

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Leadership studies is a multidisciplinary academic field of study that focuses on leadership in organizational contexts and in human life. Leadership studies has origins in the social sciences (e.g., sociology, anthropology, psychology), in humanities (e.g., history and philosophy), as well as in professional and applied fields of study (e.g., management and education). The field of leadership studies is closely linked to the field of organizational studies.

As an academic area of inquiry, the study of leadership has been of interest to scholars from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds. Today, there are numerous academic programs (spanning several academic colleges and departments) related to the study of leadership. Leadership degree programs generally relate to: aspects of leadership, leadership studies, and organizational leadership (although there are a number of leadership-oriented concentrations in other academic areas).

Leadership in higher education[edit]

Leadership has become one of the fastest-growing academic fields in higher education[1][2][3][need quotation to verify][4][need quotation to verify] At all levels, undergraduate through doctoral, an increasing number of colleges and universities have begun developing not only individual courses, but entire degree programs specifically devoted to the study of leadership.[5]

Even among some of the more established and traditional academic disciplines such as engineering, education, and medicine, specialization and concentration areas have developed around the study of leadership. Most of these academic programs have aimed to be multidisciplinary in nature, drawing upon theories and applications from related fields such as sociology, psychology, philosophy, and management. Such an approach, Rost (1991) has argued "allows scholars and practitioners to think radically new thoughts about leadership that are not possible from a unidisciplinary approach" (p. 2).[3]

Outside of the classroom, there are formal leadership education and development opportunities led by many institutions' Student Affairs departments.[6] For example, Canadian institutions such as Sheridan College have large Peer Mentor student staff programs which allow students to gain work experience while building their leadership skill development, self-confidence, and connections to their campus community.[7] Other Leadership opportunities may include: student leadership conferences, student staff roles, volunteer opportunities, co-curricular opportunities, and leadership workshops. Leadership education in higher education is important not only because it increases student retention rates, but it is also viewed as an important job skill.[8] The National Association of Colleges and Employers in the United States surveyed employers and found that leadership was an attribute that 67.4% of the respondents look for in a successful candidate's resume.[9]

History of leadership as a field of study[edit]

The study of leadership can be dated back to Plato, Sun Tzu and Machiavelli. However, leadership has only become the focus of contemporary academic studies in the last 60 years, and particularly more so in the last two decades. Contemporary leadership scholars and researchers have often been questioned about the nature of their work, and its place within the academy, but much of the confusion surrounding leadership as a field of study may be attributed to a lack of understanding regarding transdisciplinary, inter-, and multi- disciplinary academic fields of study in general.

The discipline – which encompasses a host of sub-fields – is filled with definitions, theories, styles, functions, competencies, and historical examples of successful and diverse leaders. Collectively, the research findings on leadership provide a far more sophisticated and complex view of the phenomenon than most of the simplistic views presented in the popular press.[10][11]

Some of the earliest studies on leadership include:

  • The Ohio State Leadership Studies which began in the 1940s[12] and focused on how leaders could satisfy common group needs. The findings indicated that the two most important dimensions in leadership included: "initiating structure", and "consideration". These characteristics could be either high or low and were independent of one another. The research was based on questionnaires to leaders and subordinates. These questionnaires are known as the Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire (LBDQ) and the Supervisor Behavior Description Questionnaire (SBDQ).[13] By 1962, the LBDQ was on version XII.
  • The Michigan Studies of Leadership[14] which began in the 1950s[15] and indicated that leaders could be classified as either "employee centered", or "job centered". These studies identified three critical characteristics of effective leaders: task oriented behavior, relationship-oriented behavior, and participative leadership.
  • Theory X and theory Y – developed by Douglas McGregor in the 1960s at MIT Sloan School of Management. These theories described employee motivation in the workforce. Both theories begin with the premise that the role of management is to assemble the factors of production, including people, for the economic benefit of the firm. Beyond this point, the two theories of management diverge.
  • Managerial grid model (1964), updated in 1991 to the Blake and McCanse leadership grid – developed the orientation of "task orientation" and "people orientation" in leader behavior. They developed the leadership grid which focused on concern for results (on the one axis) and concern for people (on the other axis).

In addition to these studies, leadership has been examined from an academic perspective through several theoretical lenses:

  • Functional leadership theory: Suggests that a leader's primary responsibility is to see that whatever is necessary in relation to group needs is taken care of.
  • Self-leadership theory:[17] Although behaviorally oriented, the essence of self leadership theory is that behaviors are directed toward the attainment of super-ordinate goals.

The first doctoral program in Leadership Studies[18] was established at the University of San Diego in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences in 1979.[19] The first undergraduate school of Leadership Studies was established at the University of Richmond Jepson School of Leadership Studies in 1992.[20]

Research on different types of leadership[edit]

Empirical, meta-analytic, and theoretical studies have been conducted on various types of leadership. Some of the styles of leadership studied include:

Notable leadership scholars[edit]

Research methods in the study of leadership[edit]

Leadership has been studied using quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods (a combination of quantitative and qualitative) research methodologies. From a quantitative psychology orientation, statistical and mathematical modeling has been used in the development of leadership scales, in testing established leader evaluation tools, and in examining perceptions of leaders.[27] Quantitative analysis may also take an experimental approach, incorporating methods from the field of experimental economics.[28] Survey methodology has also been widely used in leadership research. As such, traditional methods of analysis in survey research have also extended to the analysis of survey research within the study of leadership (e.g., cross-tabulations, ANOVAs, regression analysis, log-linear analysis,[29] factor analysis, etc.). From a qualitative orientation, leadership research has included a host of research techniques: phenomenology, ethnography,[30] grounded theory, interviews, case studies, historiography,[31] literary criticism,[32] etc.

"Coaches and coaching psychologists are increasingly using the lessons and tools of positive psychology in their practice (Biswas-Diener, 2010)." An example of leadership research done was by P. Alex Linley and Gurpal Minhas researching the strengths that may be found in more effective strengthspotters; the people who are skilled in the identification and development of strengths in others. The study consisted of an online survey used to collect data on the Strengthspotting Scale, together with an assessment of 60 different strengths using the Realise2 model (www.realise2.com). There were 528 respondents to retrieve data from and the results showed that the four strengths connector, enabler, esteem builder and feedback were found across the Strengthspotting Scale. "The strengths of Connector, Enabler and Feedback were significant predictors for each strengthspotting domain, suggesting that these may be the essence of the personal characteristics of an effective strengthspotter" (Linley and Minhas, 2011).

Academic programs[edit]

There are a considerable number of doctoral, masters, and undergraduate degree programs related to the study of leadership. Given that the study of leadership is interdisciplinary, leadership-related degree programs are often situated within various colleges, schools, and departments across different university campuses (e.g., Schools of Education at some universities, Business Schools at other universities, and Graduate and Professional Schools at still other universities). As such, at the doctoral level leadership related degree programs primarily include: Ph.D., Ed.D., and executive doctoral degrees (depending on the situation of the program within the university). At the masters level leadership related degree programs primarily include: Master of Science, Master of Arts, and executive master's degrees. At the undergraduate level leadership related degree programs primarily include: Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees as well as leadership certificate and minor programs. For example, Old Dominion University offers an undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Studies – Leadership].[33] Old Dominion University also offers a LeADERS program[34] for undergraduates that help students foster leadership skills and values to ultimately be competitive in a student's career.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Compare: Brungardt, C. L. (1996). "The making of leaders: A review of the research in leadership development and education". The Journal of Leadership Studies. 3 (3): 81–95. doi:10.1177/107179199700300309. S2CID 145271368. The study of leadership has been a major scholarly activity over the last 100 years. The latest edition of The Handbook of Leadership (Bass, 1990) list nearly 8,000 citations and references. In addition, Rost's (1991) research showed a dramatic increase in the number of published books and articles over the last several years.
  2. ^ Compare: Brungardt, C. L.; Gould, L. V.; Moore, R.; Potts, J. (1997). "The emergence of leadership studies: Linking the traditional outcomes of liberal education with leadership development". The Journal of Leadership Studies. 4 (3): 53–67. doi:10.1177/107179199800400306. S2CID 144672921. Fort Hays State University has joined a growing number of institutions around the nation which are providing curricular activities that educate students about leadership (Brungardt, 1996).
  3. ^ a b Rost, Joseph (1993-02-18). Leadership for the Twenty-First Century. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-0-275-94610-4.
  4. ^ Rost, J. C.; Baker, R. A. (2000). "Leadership education in colleges: Toward a 21st century paradigm". The Journal of Leadership Studies. 7 (1): 3–12. doi:10.1177/107179190000700102. S2CID 145696767.
  5. ^ "Leadership Major | Degrees, Jobs and Careers". Retrieved 2023-10-25.
  6. ^ Seemiller, Corey (2016). "Leadership Competency Development: A Higher Education Responsibility". New Directions for Higher Education. 2016 (174): 93–104. doi:10.1002/he.20192. ISSN 0271-0560.
  7. ^ "Peer Mentor Program | Student Leadership | Sheridan". Sheridan College. Retrieved 2020-03-14.
  8. ^ Soria, Krista M.; Roberts, Julia E.; Reinhard, Alex P. (2015-01-02). "First-Year College Students' Strengths Awareness and Perceived Leadership Development". Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice. 52 (1): 89–103. doi:10.1080/19496591.2015.996057. ISSN 1949-6591. S2CID 145726334.
  9. ^ "Employers Want to See These Attributes on Students' Resumes". www.naceweb.org. Retrieved 2020-03-14.
  10. ^ Doh, J. P (2003). "Can leadership be taught? Perspectives from management educators". Academy of Management Learning and Education. 2 (1): 54–67. doi:10.5465/AMLE.2003.9324025.
  11. ^ Daloz Parks, S. (2005). Leadership can be taught: A bold approach for a complex world. Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press.
  12. ^ Khurana, Rakesh (2010) [2007]. From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession. Princeton University Press. p. 354. ISBN 9781400830862. Retrieved 2013-08-24. Academic concern with the study of leadership began in 1945 with a research program at Ohio State University, under the aegis of the federal government's War Manpower Commission and the Department of labor, known as the Ohio State Leadership Studies[...]
  13. ^ The Ohio State University (n.d.). Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire (LBDQ) "Fisher College of Business | Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire (LBDQ)". Archived from the original on 2009-04-07. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
  14. ^ Boje, D. (2000). The Isles Leadership: The Voyage of the Behaviorists. The Leadership Box (Northern Michigan State University) http://business.nmsu.edu/~dboje/teaching/338/behaviors.htm#katz_michigan
  15. ^ Katz, D., Maccoby, N., and Morse, N. 1950. Productivity, Supervision, and Morale in an Office Situation. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.
  16. ^ Lord, Robert G.; Maher, Karen J. (1993-11-18). Leadership and Information Processing: Linking Perceptions and Performance. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-09901-1.
  17. ^ Neck, C. P., & Houghton, J. D. (2006). Two decades of self-leadership theory and research: Past developments, present trends, and future possibilities. Journal of Managerial Psychology http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContentItem.do?contentType=Article&contentId=1554367
  18. ^ University of San Diego (n.d.). Ph.D. in Leadership Studies. School of Leadership and Education Sciences website http://www.sandiego.edu/soles/programs/leadership_studies/academic_programs/doctoral_program/index.php Archived 2009-02-15 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ University of San Diego (n. d.). History and Facts. School of Leadership and Education Sciences. http://www.sandiego.edu/soles/about/history_and_facts.php
  20. ^ University of Richmond (n. d.). Jepson School of Leadership Studies http://jepson.richmond.edu/about/index.html
  21. ^ The Leadership Institute in the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California http://www.marshall.usc.edu/mor/leadership-institute.htm Archived 2008-02-22 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ James McaGregor Burns Academy of Leadership website at the University of Maryland "Division of Information Technology – Webhosting". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  23. ^ Burns, James MacGregor (2006-01-01). Roosevelt – The Soldier Of Freedom – 1940–1945. Illustrated with Photographs. History Book Club. ISBN 978-1-58288-260-4.
  24. ^ Posner, B. (n. d.) Santa Clara School of Business faculty webpaage http://www.scu.edu/business/management/faculty/posner-profile.cfm
  25. ^ Vroom, Victor H. (1964-01-15). Work and Motivation. New York: Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-91205-7.
  26. ^ Vroom, Victor H.; Yetton, Philip W. (2010-05-31). Leadership and Decision-Making. London: University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 978-0-8229-5265-7.
  27. ^ See Hoyt, C. L.; Murphy, S. (2016). "Managing to clear the air: Stereotype threat, women, and leadership". The Leadership Quarterly, 27 (3): 387–399.
  28. ^ See Levy, D. M.; Padgitt, K.; Peart, S. J.; Houser, D.; Xiao, E. (2011). "Leadership, cheap talk and really cheap talk". Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 77: 40–52.
  29. ^ https://archive.today/20121212070319/http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/garson/PA765/logit.htm
  30. ^ See von Rueden, C.; van Vugt, M. (2015). "Leadership in small-scale societies: some implications for leadership evolution and practice". The Leadership Quarterly, 26: 978–990.
  31. ^ See Hayter, J. M. (2015). "To End Divisions: Reflections on the Civil Rights Act of 1964." Richmond Journal of Law and Public Interest 18 (4): 499–514.
  32. ^ Bezio, Kristin MS (2017). "From Rome to Tyre to London: Shakespeare's Pericles , leadership, anti-absolutism, and English exceptionalism". Leadership. 13: 48–63. doi:10.1177/1742715016663753. S2CID 151578371.
  33. ^ Interdisciplinary Studies – Leadership
  34. ^ LeADERS program