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Leadership 1st Edition

37 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0061319754
ISBN-10: 0061319759
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Editorial Reviews


"...An impressive book. Although Burns is sophisticated about the frailties of people, Leadership is also an optimistic book..." -- Walter Johnson, The Washington Post

" important book..." -- Kenneth B. Clark, City News

From the Back Cover

One of America's leading historians on the role of leadership in American history.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 530 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Torchbooks; 1st edition (1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061319759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061319754
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,020,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly M. Gay on November 23, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The world of leadership is examined through a sweeping assessment on its power and purpose to its origins in James MacGregor Burns's book, Leadership. This book is a very comprehensive overview of the study of leadership as it distinguishes not only what are the two basic styles of leadership: transforming and transactional, but evaluates the theory and practice of leadership skills as well. Burns stated in Leadership, "I define leadership as leaders inducing followers to act for certain goals that represent the values and the motivations¬-the wants and needs, the aspirations and expectations-of both leaders and followers" (19).

Throughout the book, Burns discussed the leadership styles of political leaders to religious and social leaders. From Martin Luther King, Jr to Moses to Mahatma Gandhi to Napoleon, plus Machiavelli and even Adolf Hitler, Burns cited how these leaders made vital distinctions between wants and needs. According to Burns, "the process of leadership must be seen as part of the dynamics of conflict and of power; that leadership is nothing if not linked to collective purpose; that the effectiveness of leaders must be judged not by their press clippings but by actual social change measured by intent and by the satisfaction of human needs and expectations" (3).
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Levasseur on April 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
When I was a doctoral student, I wrote my dissertation about transforming leadership. As a full-time doctoral faculty member at one of America's leading online universities, I now mentor students in leadership and organizational change, among other specializations.

Leadership, by James MacGregor Burns the Pulitzer Prize winning author, is the most important book I have read in the field of leadership. In it, Burns coined the term, Transforming Leadership, and distinguished it from its more mundane counterpart, Transactional Leadership.

In so doing, Burns catalyzed much of the theorizing and research into transforming leadership (also called transformational leadership, visionary leadership, and charismatic leadership, among others) from the latter part of the 20th century through today.

In this foundational book, Burns argued that there was a "crisis of leadership" because people did not understand the essence of leadership. Whereas traditional, transactional leaders concern themselves with exchanging money for services, the modern, transforming leader "seeks to satisfy higher needs, and engages the full person of the follower" in a "collective purpose," that is, a common vision or shared goal. The end result is leadership "that can produce social change that will satisfy followers authentic needs" (p. 4).

A classic, the message of this book is as meaningful and urgent today as it was when Burns wrote it. We need a new form of leadership to help us deal with the problems of an ever shrinking, interconnected world. Those who would be part of a collective effort to make the world a better place, would do well to read this book.

Robert E. Levasseur, Ph.D., author of "Leadership and Change in the 21st Century"
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Wilson on February 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is the definitive book on leadership. It is long, dense with historical facts, sparkling with insights, and is essential reading for the leadership scholar. Few other leadership books merit a place on the essential reading list for this field.
Burns's accomplishment of recognizing the taxonomy of leadership is unmatched to this day. He distinguishes, for example, intellectual leadership from executive leadership, and explains how each is forged in the "crucible" of circumstances.
Rather than serving as a "how to" guide on leadership, Burns provides the reader with a framework for understanding his or her leadership role, and the requirements that accompany each role. Finding one's own reflection in this catalog of leadership roles can be an exciting and satisfying moment for the reader.
Burns is best known for developing the concept of "transforming" leadership, or "transformational" leadership as he calls it in this book. It stands in contrast to "transactional" leadership, which holds that every leader-follower encounter is an isolated event.
Whether the reader perseveres through the whole book, or just reads the introductory chapters, he or she will be in the presence of some of the best thinking to date on leadership.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By JW Fox on December 31, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Leadership is a secondary source history/political science book drawing on historical examples, psychology, and some philosophical concepts on governance. Burns goal with the book is to establish a foundation for the study of leadership, combining the studies of the leaders themselves and the followers. It covers the individual traits of leaders, their relationship to followers, and how they managed to accomplish great things or have such great impact.

This textbook has a number of stylistic problems that make it difficult to read, despite its interesting substance. Its organization is shaky and many of the chapters and sections have no clear intro or conclusion to tie his thesis together. The book is a dry, boring read that meanders between secondary sources, historical anecdotes, and the author's own biased perceptions.

Burns seems to be trying to place a lateral beam across several pillars with his leadership school. This isn't nearly as groundbreaking as the blurbs on the back of the book claim. Burns' conclusions are limited in scope, and don't leave a strong impression on the reader.

He overuses Sigmund Freud, conceding that psychoanalysis of historical figures is not particularly accurate or helpful, then goes forward and uses it anyway. He identifies few patterns, constantly going back to the same old "blame the parents" approach to psychoanalysis. His occasional delving into the sexual habits of famous leaders was purely conjecture and not worthy of this text.

Burns narration of historical events and the rise of certain leaders is mediocre. It isn't heavy on detail, yet the prose is still difficult to follow. The historical examples do not clearly demonstrate his thesis.
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