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Concepts of Leadership 8/24

Throughout “Concepts of Leadership” Bernard M. Bass examines what forms of leadership have appeared throughout history in terms of time period and physical location as well as how different cultures viewed leaders. He uses the term “Purposeful Stories” to describe the way that leaders are remembered as time passes. It is interesting to think how a single decision made by a leader could be the basis of their entire legacy or the “stories” future people tell about them. The fact that leaders, at one point in time, were remembered solely through stories gives many historical  figures a sort of legendary ambiance that amplifies their accomplishments to an unattainable height.

It seems that throughout all points and places in history, great leaders were admired for their similar qualities and the positive effect they had on their followers. However, it seems the definition of what is a “great” leader has evolved with time through the changing of standards by the general public as well as the creation of new philosophical ideas. According to Bass, early leaders mentioned in the Old and New testament fell into categories such as “prophests, priests, chiefs, and kings”. While these figures were meant to demonstrate qualities that the entire population could employ to improve society as a whole, none of them were elected officials, but rather came into power through other means. These means included religious appointments, a  matter of blood right, or possibly both as can be seen with the belief in divine right to rule held within many monarchies. By today’s standards these leaders would be considered completely unjust and unfit to rule. It can be unfair to judge the leaders of the past by modern standards as it is highly possible that the leaders of today will be looked down upon by future generations. Looking at both the positive and negative qualities of past forms of leadership should alter the decisions we as a society make about who we put in charge as well as how leaders choose to lead. This is especially important as today in many places the people determine who is in power, instead of some other factor.


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  1. Christopher Wilson Christopher Wilson

    Based upon Bass’ “Concepts of Leadership: The Beginnings,” Thomas emphasizes how a collection of stories about a leader can exaggerate that leader’s value and authoritative power. Also, Thomas agrees with Bass that the qualifications society once set for who should hold power are outdated and are unfair to many marginalized populations. In essence, Thomas concludes by saying that by examining both the good and bad qualities of past leaders and leadership, the world can develop a more just set of guidelines to use when selecting new leaders and leadership, who should want to confront contemporary leadership challenges. While I agree with both Bass and Thomas that civilized groups have created myths and legends to explain why certain people should be in power versus those who should not be in power, I wonder if the good acts leaders have demonstrated were ever exaggerated or minimized in relation with the evil acts some leaders are infamously known for. Additionally, I wonder what this exaggeration or minimalization would mean for society’s trust in who we ideally picture as good leaders.

  2. Margot Roussel Margot Roussel

    I really agree with you that sometimes stories of historical figures greatness can sometimes cloud reality and create false narratives. With this in mind, I wonder who the few people from our time period who’s greatness will be remembered. We already see stars and other famous people fall from fame quite often, so I wonder who will be the select group that will somehow be remembered and define our time period.

  3. Zariah Chiverton Zariah Chiverton

    Not to say that you are wrong to say that most great leaders were admired by their followers, but were they actually admired sincerely, or was it out of fear of the leader and what they could do to them? I am starting to think more about Professor Bezio’s analysis of what side of history is normally collected.

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