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Comparing Four Leadership Theories

Foregrounding examination of leadership must be an articulation of two assumptions: first, that leadership implies followership, and therefore, second, that leadership involves human interaction and the operation of various social roles. Thus human behavior as well as organizational behavior is implicated in any thoughtful consideration of leadership.

In the background of much leadership theory is the seminal influence of Freud. His theory of personality, first articulated in full in The Interpretation of Dreams, in 1900. That theory became part of Freud's entire opus, with the result that by the time he published Civilization and Its Discontents in 1931, his structural hypothesis of the ego, id, superego, and libido as components of personality had become benchmark and standard of analysis with application to a range of issues. In the 1931 book, the application was to human society, where leaders and followers can be found, along with competing priorities. In Freud's formulation, "man's activity develops in two directions, according as it seeks to realize . . . the one or the other of these aims" (Freud, 1961, p. 25). Social interaction prevents isolation but fosters human conflict because human beings' egos position them as autonomous. In other words, society is a psychological construction. The same is true of other organizations, and that makes for tension as an artifact of the construction. Such is the context for further study of leadership as a phenomenon.


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