Great Man

Topics: Leadership, Situational leadership theory, Thomas Carlyle Pages: 6 (1762 words) Published: January 19, 2013
Great-Man Theory
Defining a Leader
Omar Quesada
Webber International University


As I have read about it, a particular interest in my has been raising about the wonderful way many people has utilized their natural abilities as a medium of reunion and leadership. I found a string link between this gifts or skills these men had and their particular behavior in the time they lived. I would like to talk about the special characteristics that had to be present; more specific the building process of a divine individual, a prophet capable of guiding its people and the importance they have represented to humanity, whether realistic or not, since the theory has been around ever since.

Great-Man Theory

In order to get to know more about the theory of the great man, we should not ignore that this is a theory based on leadership. So, what is leadership? Scholars have defined leadership as “ the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. To my personal beliefs, leadership is: a medium to an end, it is a very particular tool with which gifted individuals in the interpersonal field can either alone or together command, guide, and lead another group of people towards completing an established goal by cheering, supporting and setting a relation with the subordinates based on a strong dose of trustworthiness.

Now, the Great-Man theory of leadership according to Winston & Patterson (2006) refers “to the idea that leaders possess innately superior qualities that distinguish them from other people, including the ability to capture the imagination and loyalty of the masses.” In other few words, that leaders are born, not made. Winston & Patterson (2006) also quote that “a leader achieves influence by humbly conveying a prophetic vision of the future” meaning that he resonates with the follower beliefs and values in such a way that the follower can understand and interpret the future into present-time action steps.

According to Leadership Central (2012) Dr. Thomas Carlyle a true believer of this theory would say that “effective leaders were a package of Godly motivation and the right personality.” Under this definition, the same Dr. Thomas Carlyle, this time quoted by Lapham’s Quarterly (2012) included as great-man leaders historical characters such as “Muhammad, Shakespeare, Luther, Rousseau, and Napoleon” undoubtedly amazing leaders that shaped their time. But, other many scholars - and I think I am going to take their side - refute this theory. Although Cherry (2012) gives a different definition, and I quote “the great man theory is a conjecture aimed at explaining the history of the effect of the great born men or heroes: people of great authority, thanks to their charisma, intelligence and wisdom have used their power in such a way as to leave a decisive historical impact” there is a powerful contradictory hypothesis quoted by Leadership Central (2012) in which they say “Herbert Spencer one the most forceful critics of the theory explains that the great-man theory is a nativist hypothesis of leadership” and in this approach, leaders cannot be made, but just born. Of course, the leader nativism is highly refutable, cultural skills are by definition highly refutable and acquirable only through human interaction and an environment conducive to the transmission of knowledge.

Leadership Central (2012) focuses in that “many factors in life shape the individual’s skills to lead” and I believe their in the right position, since leaders are a product of society, which means leaders are shaped by the time they live in and not the way around. Let’s take another example of a another so called “great-man’ leader. This time we have John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a famous character not only in his home country, but around the globe. His incredible abilities as a leader are not put in doubt, though the fact that he was...
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