Leadership has never been defined based on any one experience, theory, or historical study; rather, leadership is the product of several cumulative factors from several different cultural disciplines. The education and development of a leader require a broad perspective that emphasizes leadership as both a process and a set of scientific/technical and artistic/relational skills and abilities in need of development.
History is replete with stories and examples of fearless, selfless leaders—people who have risked their lives and fought on against seemingly insurmountable odds or who have been able to motivate those around them to go beyond what they believed they were capable of accomplishing. For example, anthropology, archeology, social anthropology, political science, psychology, business, communication, and numerous other disciplines have all contributed to the foundations of leadership theory and practice. Leadership has been observed and documented for centuries: “leaders as prophets, priests, chiefs and kings served as symbols, representatives, and models for their people in the Old and New Testaments, in the Upanishads, in the Greek and Latin classics, and in the Icelandic sagas.” Initiated by necessity, leadership in practice was observed and documented by scholars of the era, and the connection between leadership practice and academic understanding of leadership began. Four thousand and three hundred years ago, in the Instruction of Ptahhotep (2300 B.C.), three qualities were attributed to the Pharaoh’s leadership. 25 In many ways, the documentation, study, synthesis, and evaluation of leadership have been a key basis of humans’ historical record.
Most modern studies and research have been U.S. or “Western” based, although recently a little more effort has been devoted to international applications of leadership. This has not always been the case: In ancient times, “the subject of leadership was not limited to the classics of Western literature. It was of as much interest to Asoka and Confucius as to Plato and Aristotle.” 26 ,27 However, much of our current literature on leadership is greatly influenced by Western culture and the documentation of history through the leaders’ exploits, such as during the time of the Roman Empire