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An overview and history of leadership and leadership development

Published on July 28, 2010 Updated on September 28, 2016   32 min

Other Talks in the Series: Managing and Leading People

Hello, my name is John Burgoyne. I'm professor of Management Learning in the Department of Management Learning at Lancaster University Management School and also at Henley Business School.
My talk is going to be in two parts. The first part will deal with the history of leadership, leadership theory, and also the history of leadership development. In the second part, I'm going to present a contemporary view of the situation concerning leadership. And here I'm going to use the crossing point of Mary Parker-Follett in her "Law of the Situation". From her "Law of the Situation", I can develop the argument that all leaders are in fact followers and that when they function as they should, they contribute to organisational learning.
Firstly then, to deal with the history of leadership. To do this, I'm going to do a very broad and deep reaching back into the past view of the evolution of culture, the economy, and lifestyle. When I've dealt with these six broad eras of history, I'm going to then look at the styles or approaches or traditions of leadership associated with each of them, reaching very much deep back into history, before the human was a primary force on the face of the earth, we have the animal world. This still was organised and one can also question what led this organisation. The second era I want to deal with is the period in which humans roamed on the face of the earth as hunter-gatherers. This went on for millions of years and everything since, is a small proportion of the time that human beings operated like that, a point that is made much of by evolutionary psychologists, which I'll mention in a minute. In this period, human beings gathered vegetables and roots and hunted animals and the like to eat, who roamed in the wild. The following and third era was the agricultural one whereas well as hunting and gathering, human beings in closed land grew crops, kept animals and the like. This went on for perhaps thousands rather than millions of years and as we will see, the pace of change is accelerating dramatically. The fourth and following era is that of industry and manufacture and this is going back, a mere few 100 years. Here a large proportion of human beings moved fairly rapidly to working in factories or the like, rather than on the land. And this goes on today, though large portions of it, as many of us know, are moving or have moved to the newly developing parts of the world. The following era I'm going to call mentofacture, because that means making with the mind rather than manufacture, which means making with the hand, as in manual labor. This is the much talked about knowledge economy, which includes activities like financial services, design and so on. In other parts of the world, some countries like China and parts of India, have stayed with manufacture. But some like Singapore and other parts of India have, to some extent, jumped over the manufacture era and gone straight into mentofacture or knowledge work and the like. It's said that the call center is the factory of the knowledge economy or mentofacture style work. It's worth pointing out that activities like agriculture clearly still exist but they have been, if you like, backwardly colonized by the later developments. So for example, it's said that much of agriculture, despite efforts at organic farming and so on, is in fact outdoor manufacture. In this sense, the only difference between the farm and the factory is that in the factory the goods go through the machines, and on the farm, the machines go over the goods. And it doesn't stop there. For quite a number of years now, we've had the lightless factory where there are no human beings, so no need for light. And the robots are doing the manufacturing, the human beings are designing and maintaining the robots, which is more mentofacture style work. On the farm, the tractor, putting the sprays that's putting insecticides or fertilizer on the crops, is more than likely controlled, at least in terms of the dosage of the spray, by a satellite message coming to the tractor from a fertilizer company. The extents of the development of the mentofacture era is contested. It has been argued that, even in America, only 17% of the working population are truly doing knowledge work. The remainder are still cooking burgers in McDonald's or bolting wheels on a car in a factory. However, the industrial revolution did not take place overnight and nor has the knowledge economy revolution. But even before that's fully developed, I want to argue we're moving on to the next one, at least in part, which I'm going to call Spiroculture. In this, people are not looking so much for goods and services with which to survive, but meaningfulness in their lives. This applies both to people as customers of organisations but also to people as employees of organisations. And temporary organisations are selling their brand, internally to their employees, as something to be proud to be associated with, as well as to their customers. It's said that shopping malls have replaced cathedrals as the place where people go in their leisure time, not to get necessities of life but to find a new identity for themselves. So for example, when somebody buys a designer T-shirt for 50 pounds, it may have cost 50 pee to make in China and perhaps another pound to ship it around the world, and another 2 pounds to market it. But the remaining 48 or so pounds is for the brand, for the identity, for the label to give people a sense of identity and meaning in life.

An overview and history of leadership and leadership development

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