Leadership, like science, abhors a vacuum. Leadership is a phenomenon of society, a part of the interactive processes that defines the way we think of ourselves as members of political, religious, economic, social, educational, and interpersonal communities. We, as members of the human social group, are fascinated by our leaders – we worship some, deride others, and represent many in popular media. We spend countless dollars and hours examining leaders both historical and fictional, some of whom we laud as paragons and others we deride as villains. The traits we attribute to leadership vary widely based on circumstances, contexts, and historical eras, but are there universal characteristics to what defines leadership? Leaders require followers, but what causes some potential leaders to be successful? How do we – as both inside and outside observers – define success in leadership? What roles do we play as potential leaders and followers in making leadership successful?
The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to some of the complexities that form the way we think about, study, and participate in leadership (and followership). We will examine political, philosophical, religious, literary, and popular texts and film in our attempt to define how the understanding of leadership has evolved. We will discuss the way in which we determine success or failure in leadership, but also the way in which that success or failure is influenced by ethical factors.