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Great Man Theory

 

Disciplines > Leadership > Leadership theories > Great Man theory

Assumptions | Description | Discussion | See also

 

Assumptions

Leaders are born and not made.

Great leaders will arise when there is a great need.

Description

Early research on leadership was based on the the study of people who were already great leaders. These people were often from the aristocracy, as few from lower classes had the opportunity to lead. This contributed to the notion that leadership had something to do with breeding.

The idea of the Great Man also strayed into the mythic domain, with notions that in times of need, a Great Man would arise, almost by magic. This was easy to verify, by pointing to people such as Eisenhower and Churchill, let alone those further back along the timeline, even to Jesus, Moses, Mohammed and the Buddah.

Discussion

The 'great man' theory was originally proposed by Thomas Carlyle.

Gender issues were not on the table when the 'Great Man' theory was proposed. Most leaders were male and the thought of a Great Woman was generally in areas other than leadership. Most researchers were also male, and concerns about androcentric bias were a long way from being realized.

It has been said that history is nothing but stories of great men. Certainly, much has this bias, although there is of course also much about peoples and broader life.

See also

Trait Theory

 

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