Albert Einstein once said, “Nearly every great advance in science arises from a crisis in the old theory, through an endeavor to find a way out of the difficulties created; we must examine old ideas, old theories, although they belong to the past, for this is the only way to understand the importance of the new ones and the extent of their validity.” 29 As suggested, Ledlow and Coppola defined leadership as the ability to assess, develop, maintain, and change organizational culture and strategic systems to optimally meet the needs and expectations of the external environment by moral means. With this definition in mind, some alternatives and suggestions for studying leadership from a theoretical perspective are offered here.
In response to the problems inherent in traditional leadership theory outlined, we posit a series of propositions using the framework developed by Coppola, Kerlinger, Whetten, and Wittgenstein, 30 – 33 which stipulates that propositions, or statements of opinion based on related facts, are true when describing relationships. The proposition technique allows relevant prose to coalesce around various arguments offered in the literature that lack empirical support. Following this analysis, semantic differential is used to place ideas of similar meaning into categories. The creation of these categories then allows for the presentation of simple sentences describing concepts. These concepts are then used as valid foundations for continuing the research stream. Although the statements may not always be exact, they are offered as reliable and trustworthy until additional research suggests otherwise, or more definitive evidence of disconfirmation is provided. Research historically suggests that empirical evidence most often flows from the advancements of theory, qualitative analysis, and supposition. 34
The proposed “omnibus leadership model,” discussed later in this chapter, borrows from previous literature in the field and provides a different aperture for evaluating leaders and leadership theory based on the following propositions:
· Proposition 1: Leadership theory has become analogous to a calculus formula that is memorized, but not derived.
In the past, leadership theories and models have followed a pattern similar to that of earlier defunct theories such as the “flat earth” theory and the theory of eugenics—namely, scholars and students memorized the theories and models and passed them on to future generations without ever studying the phenomena firsthand. Likewise, few students have ever done the mathematical calculations to derive the degrees associated with a circle and triangle; rather, they accept the notion that a circle is 360 degrees and the angles within a triangle add up to 180 degrees. We do not dispute these mathematical facts, but do take pause at the widespread acceptance without validation of some of the early leadership literature.
· Proposition 2: Early models of leadership theory applied a managerial framework to the study of leadership that failed to correctly differentiate other disciplines from leadership.
Many of the early models of leadership looked at managerial outcomes and not the factors (i.e., constructs) influencing those outcomes for leadership.
· Proposition 3: It is necessary to reevaluate leadership models to discern whether incorrect units of analyses or misapplied variables have been extended to the explanation of phenomena associated with leadership theory.
Although we do not suggest that all leader models are inherently incorrect or flawed, we do suggest that—similar to other theoretical disciplines that have acknowledged evolution in their discipline—the study of leadership is more a study of the validation of outcomes attributed to the leader or leadership team than forecasted issues coupled with actions or style selection. This requires prospective and retrospective assessment.
· Proposition 4: The tautology of the terms leadership and leader have allowed for the unarrested use and application of the theory in literature.
The lack of a clear definition of leadership, combined with the lack of a clear understanding of what constitutes the construct of leadership, results in outcomes that do not maximize validity, reliability, and the ability to generalize across situations.
· Proposition 5: Leadership theory lacks universally defined constructs and variables.
Dissimilar to the study of quality in health care, where Donabedian’s framework has become a benchmark with which to frame results, or the study of evolution, where Darwin’s Theory of Evolution dominates the landscape, scholars in the management sciences lack a clear signpost for acuity in the leadership field for study. This lack of grounding decreases consistency. In essence, leadership remains in a perpetual “theory building” cycle.
· Proposition 6: Leadership theory lacks a defined conceptual model.
No one conceptual model stands out as a panacea for leadership study. This is dissimilar to the proposition offered by the U.S. Constitution, which clearly states that U.S. citizens have the “right to bear arms.”
· Proposition 7: Traditional leadership theories do not differentiate between leadership and dictatorship.
Leaders who are self-serving, and who also have an agenda for harm and misery, are often labeled as “leaders” because society is unable to place them into any other designation when considering traditional leadership models. Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden are only two examples; they are labeled “leaders” by default. Interestingly, the preponderance of the literature associated with Benito Mussolini describes the Italian ruler as “the Italian dictator” and not as a leader—which is unique in the literature of historical despots.