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Thinking about Leadership

Thinking about Leadership

Nannerl O. Keohane
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Thinking about Leadership
    Book Description:

    Leadership is essential to collective human endeavor, from setting and accomplishing goals for a neighborhood block association, to running a Fortune 500 company, to mobilizing the energies of a nation. Political philosophers have focused largely on how to prevent leaders from abusing their power, yet little attention has been paid to what it actually feels like to hold power, how leaders go about their work, and how they relate to the people they lead. InThinking about Leadership, Nannerl Keohane draws on her experience as the first woman president of Duke University and former president of Wellesley College, as well as her expertise as a leading political theorist, to deepen our understanding of what leaders do, how and why they do it, and the pitfalls and challenges they face.

    Keohane engages readers in a series of questions that shed light on every facet of leadership. She considers the traits that make a good leader, including sound judgment, decisiveness, integrity, social skill, and intelligence; the role that gender plays in one's ability to attain and wield power; ethics and morality; the complex relationship between leaders and their followers; and the unique challenges of democratic leadership. Rich with lessons and insights from leaders and political thinkers down through the ages, including Aristotle, Queen Elizabeth I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Nelson Mandela,Thinking about Leadershipis a must-read for current and future leaders, and for anyone concerned about our prospects for good governance.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3608-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Management & Organizational Behavior

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    “THE CHIEF EMERGES from his tent to face the leaden morning light,” begins an article in theNew York Times. The topic is not an expedition to an ancient village but a settlement of homeless people in Providence, Rhode Island, called Camp Runamuck. The rules of the community of about fifty people are made by a rough form of democracy, but there is no doubt that Chief John Freitas is central in the governance of the camp. “I was always considered the leader, the chief,” Mr. Freitas says. “I was the one consulted about ‘where should I put my tent?’”...

  2. ONE What Is Leadership?
    (pp. 18-47)

    TO UNDERSTAND LEADERSHIP at its most basic level, consider a group of individuals otherwise unconnected with each other who want to accomplish some common purpose. The homeless people mentioned in the introduction who come to Camp Runamuck want to be protected from thieves and other predatory activities and have some minimal order and cleanliness in their surroundings. A more familiar example is a group of strangers shipwrecked on a desert island. They share a basic goal: to be rescued from their dangerous predicament. In the meantime, they need to navigate their alien environment and find food, water, and shelter.


  3. TWO How and Why Do Followers Matter?
    (pp. 48-82)

    ACCORDING TO WELLESLEY COLLEGE legend, Mildred McAfee Horton commented on an admissions application in which the student’s teacher had written apologetically: “Mary is not a leader, but she is an excellent follower.” President Horton responded: “By all means admit Mary; with a class of four hundred and fifty leaders we need at least one follower.”

    Leaders by definition have followers. As Bruce Miroff puts it, “If any single characteristic is the hallmark of leadership, it is interaction: there are no leaders without followers.”¹ In small informal groups there is little distinction between them; but in a city, nation-state, or corporation,...

  4. THREE What Determines Who Becomes a Leader and Which Leaders Will Succeed?
    (pp. 83-120)

    WHY ARE SOME PEOPLE leaders and others not? Why do certain individuals step forward to propose solutions to common problems and mobilize others to follow them, or occupy posts that confer on them the right to do so in a regular fashion? Responses to this question sometimes paraphrase Maria’s letter to Malvolio inTwelfth Night: “Some are born to leadership; some achieve leadership; others have leadership thrust upon them.”¹

    Hereditary chiefs or members of a ruling aristocracy are born into positions with built-in expectations of leadership. Some fulfill their duties admirably; many fail, because of either deficiencies of personal qualifications...

  5. FOUR Does Gender Make a Difference?
    (pp. 121-154)

    MANY PERSONAL QUALITIES and skills often associated with leadership can be learned or developed through experience. But for one very basic and familiar characteristic, this generalization does not apply. Throughout history, leadership has been closely associated with masculinity. The king, the father, the boss, the lord are stereotypical images of leadership. Men and leadership have been Siamese twins, and the idea of a woman leader is still strange to many people.

    Notwithstanding this long-standing association, more and more women are providing leadership today in a variety of settings. How does this increasing presence of women in visible positions of power...

  6. FIVE How Does Leadership Work in a Democracy?
    (pp. 155-193)

    LEADERSHIP IS AS ESSENTIAL in a democracy as any other community, essential for all the reasons we have covered in the preceding chapters. But how can the asymmetrical influence distinctive to leadership be consistent with robust popular decision making or with sovereignty residing in the people as a whole? And how should we think about citizens in a democracy? When they exercise ultimate authority or take the initiative in decision making, does it make sense to call them followers?

    There are two opposite ways in which leadership and democracy can be in fundamental tension. The first occurs when the exercise...

  7. SIX How Do Character, Ethics, and Leadership Interact?
    (pp. 194-223)

    WHAT DOES HOLDING POWER do to a person over time? Robert Michels claims that “the exercise of power produces a profound and ineffaceable change in the character.” Most observers would agree, and add—as Michels did—that the effects are usually not beneficial. “The permanent exercise of leadership exerts upon the moral character of the leaders an influence which is essentially pernicious.”¹ Is this a fair assessment?

    Mark Philp notes one salient factor —that “politics is a much more internally complex, human, and grubby domain of activity than most political theory recognizes. It is a domain in which human passions,...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 224-236)

    AS I NOTED AT THE OUTSET, the purpose of this book has been to clear away some of the underbrush that prevents us from seeing clearly what we are analyzing when we think about leadership and to suggest some of the questions we need to answer if we are to understand leadership more fully. Along the way other tempting paths have opened up. Leadership is such a complex, pervasive, and fascinating phenomenon that there will always be more questions that deserve thoughtful consideration. In this conclusion, I briefly review some of my answers to the questions I have posed and...