Research Paper: Old and New Leadership Styles

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[. . .] They hardly see the organization as band but more of a pyramid or a hierarchy, which was in fact the standard model of the industrial era, with its rigid routines and assembly lines and conveyor belts, as well as an autocratic management structure from the top-down. No one could really be an equable, humane, servant-leader in an environment like this, nor was it the type of system that valued change, innovation or creativity. Gandhi and Martin Luther King exemplify the ethical, servant leadership that DePree describes, in both their means and ends. Often, moral leadership consists in doing what is right, regardless of the consequences, and morality is not defined by personal comfort and convenience, or even what they majority of people believe to be right. In history, truly moral leadership has been very rare, and often takes on the most heroic qualities imaginable.

Leaders in these conditions advanced their careers by literally making sure that the machinery worked, and employees were generally treated as part of the machinery. In an organization that is no longer run on such rigid and authoritarian lines, however, DePree's jazz band model does seem more appropriate, along with leaders who share power and responsibility and encourage independent thought and creativity among followers -- which did not exist under the old industrial model. Many leaders in newer organizations will fail because they were trained under the old methods and never learned to appreciate the value of followers and water carriers, or to deal with the change, risk and uncertainly of a globalized economy. Even more difficult is leader's task or persuading followers that they will also benefit from change and should participate in it, and to acknowledge their dignity and humanity in general.

Charismatic and Ethical Leadership

Charismatic and transformational leaders should also be ethical and democratic leaders, although this has often not been the case in history. Hitler and Stalin were certainly powerful and influential leaders in world history, but by no stretch of the imagination could they have been described as moral or democratic or even to have led their countries well. Although they had a tremendous abilities to "rise to the top, to take control, to persuade and win over others, to command hundreds, then thousands, then millions," neither their methods nor the goals they sought were moral (Coles, 2001, p. 244). Just the opposite, they should be considered at the extreme of immoral leadership, while Gandhi and Martin Luther King exemplify moral leadership on both their means and ends. Often, moral leadership consists in doing what is right, regardless of the consequences, and morality is not defined by personal comfort and convenience, or even what they majority of people believe to be right. In fact, the individual might have to stand alone against the norms of society or the state, especially when these are evil and unjust. In history, truly moral leadership has been very rare, and often takes on the most heroic qualities imaginable.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer did this in Nazi Germany and in 1945 was put to death in a concentration camp because of his opposition to Hitler. Unlike the majority of Germany's ministers, "many of them even wearing the swastika as they went about their so-called spiritual duties," Bonhoeffer resisted the regime and encouraged others to do so (Coles, p. 198). Conformity would have been the safe, easy and secure course, and many opportunists chose to do that. Perhaps the individual will only find if they have real courage and morality in extreme situations like these, when the price for following their convictions really would be death or a concentration camp. Bonhoeffer could have stayed safely in the United States when the war began in 1939, but he chose to return to Germany to continue his resistance work. He gave up a potentially comfortable and safe life and returned to a country where his most likely future was death, but he believed that his moral duty required him to take a stand against Nazism, even though it would probably be futile. When Bonhoeffer was finally executed on Hitler's orders, his last words were "this is the end, but for me the beginning of life" (Coles, p. 200). He could say this because he had a faith or sense of belief that transcended the needs of the individual or even his personal well-being and survival.

J. Patrick Dobel (1998) discusses the use of political prudence as a part of an ethical leadership program. Civil servants cannot possibly address all of the issues confronting the society, and will often ignore the demands of certain constituents while at the same time focusing on how they can address narrow elements and special interests (Dobel, 1998, pp. 74 -- 81). Public administrators are focused on normative practices, and will have a sense of power and entitlement compared to the general population. Politically prudent bureaucrats, on the other hand, will have more of a sense of self-mastery and the public interests instead of narrow, private interests. This helps the political leadership to look at the big picture and the way their decisions will affect the general population, and will base their decisions on the views and morals of the community itself (Dobel, 1998, pp. 74 -- 81). Dobel observes that "political prudence requires foresight, openness to experience and reason, timing, linking means and ends, seeking durability and legitimacy of outcomes, and building community" (Dobel, 1998, p. 74).


No matter what the size or purpose of their organizations, leaders must learn to be more humane and empathic, no matter that empathy has also become a cliche and buzzword in advice books of this type. They have to be concerned about the feelings, desires and interests of their own followers, not simply a list of tasks at hand or advancing their own careers. In my experience, giving advice like this is quite easy, but following it consistently is not. If leadership is not simply about getting things done on schedule but more about ethics and compassion, then many leaders are not all that successful in dealing with the human side of the equation, and are more likes soulless technicians and mechanics than great leaders. They wear the mask of authority, titles and position, but come up short in other departments, and are very hard to picture as leaders of a jazz band, or any other type of band for that matter. In most organizations, the followers and water carriers that DePree praises really are treated like lowly-paid menials, and are not particularly noticed or valued unless they fall to carry out their assigned tasks in a timely manner. In that case, they might well be reprimanded, but they are rarely thanked or praised. No tribe or band could survive without them, however, yet many mangers hardly even bother to say 'hello' to them or give them the time of day, much less tell them that their contributions are valued. Indeed, leaders often act like they are unaware of their existence unless something goes wrong, and this does not make for a very dynamic and healthy organization.


Adrian, C. (2006). Political Democracy, Trust and Social Justice. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press.

Coles, R. (2001). Lives of Moral Leadership: Men and Women Who Have Made a Difference. Random House.

DePree, M. (1992). Leadership Jazz. Dell Trade Paperbacks.

Dobel, P. (1998). "Political Prudence and the Ethics of Leadership." Public Administration Review, 58, 74 -- 81.

Downs, A. (1967). Inside Bureaucracy. Boston: Little Brown.

Edward, C. (2005). Downsizing the Federal Government. Washington DC: CATO Institute.

Grodzins, M. (1966, 1984). The American System: A New View of Government in the United States. Rand McNally.

James, W. (1908). Pragmatism. New York, NY: Longmans, Green and Company.

Lowi, T.J. (1969, 2009). The End of Liberalism: The Second Republic of the United States. NY: Norton.

Pressman, J.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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