- Series: Harper Perennial Political Classics
- Paperback: 544 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; 1 edition (March 30, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 006196557X
- ISBN-13: 978-0061965579
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 55 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Leadership (Harper Perennial Political Classics) 1st Edition
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“A landmark historian.” (Jon Meacham, Newsweek)
“Touches on every aspect of politics that is pertinent to leadership . . . Burns distinguishes true leadership from mere power-holding and domination . . . Valuable . . . Offers suggestions for fostering true leadership.” (New York Times Book Review)
“James MacGregor Burns’s seminal book on power” (New York Times)
“Pulitzer prizewinner James MacGregor Burns introduced the concept of transformational leadership in his book Leadership. For him, it characterized the great leaders of history.” (Management Today)
“One of the most influential leadership authorities, James MacGregor Burns advanced the concept of ‘transformational leadership,’ whereby leaders have the ability and obligation to share an overarching vision with their followers.” (Boston Globe)
“Leadership, remains a classic in the field. Burns has spent a lifetime studying presidential leadership.” (MARGARET WARNER, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer)
“Leadership had a major impact. ... Burns’s definition of leadership continues to dominate the field. ” (Harvard Business Review)
From the Back Cover
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James MacGregor Burns devoted his legendary career to the study of leadership in all its aspects—from politics to business. Leadership, Burns's pioneering study, introduces the highly influential theory of "transformational leadership," stating that the best leaders are those who inspire others to come together toward the achievement of higher aims. Featuring fascinating case studies drawn from history, Leadership is the classic text for anyone seeking to understand executive decision-making, the dynamics of influence, and moral leadership.
Top customer reviews
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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. He provides limit context, assuming the reader is fully apprised of the historical events. This is arrogant and lazy. I can only assume the book is meant for a graduate-level audience who have strong backgrounds in history and political science. It certainly wasn't marketed this way (Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award).
Burns take on Mao Zedong was troubling to me. In Mao's case, his leadership ended when he took power at which point he became a tyrant. By Burns own admission, a tyranny is not leadership. He speaks glowingly of these revolutions despite the bloodshed, poverty, misery, and war it brought to the respective countries. His positive view of the Cultural Revolution in China is absolutely stunning, ignoring its atrocities and utter failure.
The book was published in 1978, so some of these events were contemporary. We know more today about the Soviet Union and the experiences of Communist China in the 20th century. It is fair to say Burns was very wrong in his opinion of these two political systems and their relevance to his school of leadership. The other sections are much better.
Why give it 3 stars with all these problems? Burns combines multiple disciplines for a fairly reasonable case against compartmentalizing social sciences (this was his implicit objective). His study of leadership became the basis for later works, especially those covering popular and business leadership. Finally, I for the most part agree with his primary thesis and the supporting definitions early in the book. So it gets an average grade from me.
It is an interesting read that covers countless types of leaders and theories on leadership in general. It is insightful and thought provoking, and the fact that many consider it a classic is no surprise to me.
I am pleased that it was required reading, as I am unsure if I would have purchased it otherwise. As someone who is fascinated by human interaction, and society as a whole, I have become more interested in how leadership plays into that with each chapter I complete.
And continuing on the point about power: Power is a tool, with many varied sources, that a leader should use. But it is not fundamentally definitional of a leader. And at best it is a means, not an end.
As I've mentioned in another book review, for those looking for an understanding of leadership in modern organizations, read Drucker's "Management".
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).