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The Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu put it best when he said, “A leader is best when people barley know he exists, When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, They will say: We did it ourselves.” Often when a person thinks of a leader they think of such great leaders as George Washington, George Patton, and Thomas Jackson. The word “leader” itself will invoke images of die-hard men with the charisma to command anyone and overcome anything. Yet despite this common image there was no theory of leadership that covered this common belief in a “super” leader.
That was the case until 1983, then Charles C. Manz developed the theory of “Super Leadership.” This theory is based on the premise that a Super leader is one who, “leads others to lead themselves, by acting as a teacher and a coach, not a director”(DuBrin 97). Charles Manz writes about his theory that, “this perspective suggests a new measure of leadership strength – the ability to maximize the contributions of others by helping them to effectively guide their own destinies, rather than the ability to bend the will of other’s to the leader’s” (Manz xvi).

The Super Leadership theory evolved from the beliefs that the most appropriate type of leader in today’s society is a leader who can lead others to lead themselves. This type of “lead your self” leadership results in people who are self-directing and in return require little amounts of external control.
The theory of Super leadership relies on the ability to teach the right thought patterns to the members of the organization while also ensuring that they think both constructively and productively. Manz states that the purpose of this type of thinking, “is to enable workers to gain control over their own behavior” (DeBrin 97).
In order to practice Super Leadership both the leaders and the followers should follow three main attitudes and behaviors. The first being the identification and replacement of destructive beliefs and assumptions. In the Super Leadership model any negative thoughts, after being identified, are replaced with a more constructive thought. Next, changing to positive and constructive self-talk. In the Super Leadership model “any negative thoughts are changed into positive ones” (DeBrin 99). The final attitude and behavior change concerns the visualization of methods for effective performance. This relates to the old adage “practice the way you play” in that you want to visualize and practice the way you want to perform.
The theory of Super Leadership has roots in early religious teachings. Manz states in his book The Leadership Wisdom of Jesus that “to become an effective leader for others, you must first learn to lead yourself” (Manz 25). He gets this belief out of the New Testament in the chapter of Matthew when Jesus said, “First take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).
There are also several other themes that Manz states are important to the implementation of Super Leadership. One such theme is to remember that “an important measure of a leader’s own success is the success of others” (Manz xix). This is true very often in today’s society. For example we attribute the leadership ability of a major league baseball coach with the success of his team. To be a good leader you must look at what are your followers accomplishing.
Another key theme of Super Leadership is that, “if a person wants to lead somebody, he must first lead himself”(Manz xix). This states that only a person who can live life without being led constantly by someone else can lead others to do the same.

The purpose of this section is to review case studies that have been done on Super Leadership.
The first study will be a profile in the leadership of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. General Eisenhower is regarded by millions to be one of the most effective military leaders in history. Although General Eisenhower showed many aspects of Super Leadership we will focus on two aspects he used of Super Leadership.
First, his ability to not impose his own will on his subordinates but instead to draw out their own talents made him great. For example, several British Generals outranked General Eisenhower. Yet despite this Manz states, “He tended to work with his deputies, not by imposing his will on them, but through persuasion and cooperation, to draw out their talents by establishing a close personal relationship with them” (Manz 106.) This ability to de-emphasize status and rank helped General Eisenhower to become the great military leader he was.
Next we will look at how General Eisenhower followed the Super Leadership model by developing others. General Eisenhower understood that that his success depended on the success of his men and paid great attention to the training of his officers. In writing a fellow General he wrote, “While you are doing your stuff from day to day, constantly look and search among your subordinates for the ones that have these priceless qualities . . . you will find greater and greater need for people upon whom you can depend to take the load off your shoulders” (Manz 106). We see that General Eisenhower understood the need for developed subordinates and modeled the Super Leadership theory.
Another study that we will examine is that of a leader who, is not quite as world famous as General Eisenhower, yet still exhibits aspects of Super Leadership. William L. McKnight, former CEO of 3M Company, is our next study. One major way that William McKnight is a super leader is the way he promoted self-leaders by delegating authority. In 1948 he made these remarks which represent his Super Leadership thought:
“As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. This requires considerable tolerance.
Those men and women to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way. These are characteristics we want and should be encouraged as long as their way conforms to our general pattern of operation” (Manz 49).
By looking at these words we see how it was possible for William McKnight to turn 3M into one of the most successful firms in the nation according to Fortune magazine.
We can see that it doesn’t take a war or even a uniform to be a Super Leader. All it takes is a few changes in thought, as illustrated by William McKnight.
We also now see a real example of how General Eisenhower was a Super Leader.

The previous section was devoted to two case studies that supported the Super Leadership theory. It was the intent of this section to discuss any literature that was criticized the Super Leadership Theory. However, since the theory is relatively new and hard to criticize, I found no literature that criticized this theory.

If you ask just about anyone what a “leader” is they will most likely describe some great historical figure like Napoleon, Robert E. Lee, or even the great John Wayne. However, in the past here has been no theory of Leadership that described this type of leadership style. That was until Charles C. Manz developed the theory of “Super Leadership”. This theory is based on the old expression, “Give a man a fish, and he will be fed for a day; teach a man to fish and he will be fed for a lifetime.” Superleadership does just that, it’s leadership that leads others to lead themselves.
In conclusion Charles Manz’s theory of Super Leadership is very effective if used correctly. If a leader follows the steps of becoming a effective self-leader, by modeling self-leadership, encouraging self-set goals, using rewards and constructive feedback, to create positive thought patterns, and to promote self-leading teams he/she will be an effective Super Leader.

DuBrin, Andrew J. Leadership: Research Findings, Practice and Skills. New York. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1998.

Horowitz, Shel C. Turn Leaders into Superleaders. The Umass Family Business Center. Apr 00.

Manz, Charles C. Superleadership: Leading others to Lead Themselves. New York. Prentice Hall 1989.

Manz, Charles C. The Leadership Wisdom of Jesus: Practical Lessons for Today. New York. Prentice Hall 1998.

Manz, Charles C. Exploring Superleadership’s Spritual Foundations. Available:

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