The evaluation procedures consisted of a critical analysis of the similarities and the differences that existed in the views of leadership, which were extensively influenced by the duration in which they were brought forward. Bass (1990) argued that the past studies on leadership were based on leaders and their views. The examination of the historical leadership is comprised of the analysis of the W. E. Du Bois, Lao-tzu in Tao Te Ching, and Bass Machiavelli whose viewpoints on the topic of leadership are at variance with each other, yet are found to be effectively applied in their immediate communities. The theoretical perspectives of the scholars in the area of leadership and leadership styles were different. However, the views contained a certain degree of commonalities. The scholars presented diverse traits of good leadership and offered examples from which leaders could draw as they tended to come up with new forms of leadership styles.
The Review of the Commonalities and Disparities
The three theorists believed that leaders must have certain traits in order to gain respect from their followers. Such leadership traits were a requirement and had to be combined with actions that would result in a positive perspective and earn respect from the subjects (Carlyle, 1902). The theorists believed that the positive reputation produced by the exceptional leaders enabled them to gain an increased following from the majority. Du Bois (1903) and Bass (1990) put a lot of emphasis on the group leaders at their time and believed that powerful leaders in each group including families, businesses, religion, and kingdoms were to be examples of good guidance and leaders for generations. Bass (1990) argued that strong leaders in their communities were pronounced models of leadership.
Generally, the three theorists indicated that the leadership as a whole should not be narrowly focused on certain specific instances, rather should be broad-based and emphasize the real-life applications. The broad focus on leadership would increase the understanding of control as a whole and corroborate the philosophical arguments and approaches.
On the other hand, the theorists differed on many fronts. For instance, Lao-tzu in Tao Te Ching felt strongly that the relationship between the leaders and the subjects should be reciprocal (Heider, 1985). Leaders should reciprocate their followers through appropriate actions. Besides, Lao-tzu in Tao Te Ching believed in fairness and equality. However, the ideas on equality and fairness can be perceived as contradictory given the fact that leaders have the capability of disregarding their honorable values at the expense of self-interest (Heider, 1985). Bass (1990) believed in good leadership traits that resulted in increased power and dominance. Besides, Bass (1990) argued that such leadership traits could be inherited by generations irrespective of cultural diversity. Further, Bass (1990) believed that leadership was one of the oldest preoccupations and had been in existence since the beginning of civilization. Du Bois (1903) tended to see leadership as self-taught. Du Bois (1903) also believed that education remained critical for success and was one of the means through which ignorance could be eliminated especially among African Americans. As a result, Du Bois (1903) argued that young people should attend and complete their college education in order to have the leadership experience.
Conflicting and Alternative Perspectives of Leadership
One of the most important points to note is that all the three theorists were respective achievers and educated people during their time. This explains why their views on leadership remained critical and have been applied in several instances and occasions. While Du Bois (1903) believed an indefinite group of intelligent and well-educated African Americans who can lead their race, Lao-tzu in Tao Te Ching thought that the most effective leaders were those who had the ability to act according to the expectations of the followers. Bass (1990) believed that the use of force is not the best form of coercion that produces the preeminent traits that can be inherited by future generations. In fact, Du Bois had the belief that leadership traits were inborn and leaders had the capacity that could enable them to rise to influential positions given effective education and opportunity.
The views on leadership seemed to be conflicting on various fronts. Lao-tzu’s view on leadership can be seen as a way through which some leaders can discern ethical values in order to gain their self-interest (Heider, 1985). Even though Lao-tzu championed fairness and equality traits in leadership, he propagated certain forms of coercion that other leaders can take advantage of to fulfill their personal interests (Heider, 1985). Contrary to this assertion, in Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu emphasized the importance of leaders that promoted the sense of harmony among the followers (Heider, 1985). In fact, in Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu argued that good traits such as honesty and calmness should be encouraged among the leaders (Heider, 1985). Most importantly, leaders should be encouraged to focus on the needs of the followers (Heider, 1985).
Du Bois (1903) believed that leadership was inborn, yet could be learned through education. The belief in education indicates that leadership abilities are learned. Leaders who have inherent traits are capable of being successful even without education. As such, leaned leadership is an alternative to that of inborn. Du Bois’s (1903) beliefs in leadership are contradictory, yet remain influential. Both Du Bois and Lao-tzu in Tao Te Ching demonstrated that leaders should win the faith of their followers through their own actions. While Du Bois (1903) believed that leaders had the inherent capabilities, but they were capable of increasing their influence through education as well as available opportunities, Lao-tzu in Tao Te Ching believed that leaders could perform actions that were geared towards increasing the living standards of the followers. On the contrary, Bass (1990) believed in ruling by any means necessary. In other words, Bass (1990) believed in leadership that was primarily being influenced by social power. Bass (1990) believed in the leadership style based on manipulations that resulted in satisfying the self-interest of the leaders.
As indicated, the three theorists were very influential during their time and even today. Through the comparative analysis of their theories and leadership styles as well as traits, it is clear that they were greatly influenced by social conditions. Besides, it is possible to sieve certain constituents of their theories that are applicable in modern society, particularly, within the workplace. According to Du Bois, people have the capability of rising to influential positions given their education and available opportunity. In the current system, professionals are taking advantage of their education and job-related opportunities to advance and rise in the influential ranks. Similarly, Lao-tzu in Tao Te Ching championed the actions that are geared towards satisfying the interest of the followers. The traits are evident in the current workplaces that encourage teamwork. Bass, though aggressive in his leadership approach, still presented leadership qualities that can be applied while under pressure. In reality, there is no ideal way of leading. Leaders must be in a position in which they can easily assess the situation, come up with the best methods and act in the interest of the followers.
Bass, B. M. (1990). Concepts of leadership: The beginnings. In J.T. Wren (Ed.), The Leaders Companion: Insights on Leadership Through the Ages (p. 49-52). New York, NY: The Free Press.
Carlyle, T. (1902). The hero as king. In J.T. Wren (Ed.), The Leaders Companion: Insights on Leadership Through the Ages (p. 53, 54). New York, NY: The Free Press.
Du Bois, W. E. (1903). The talents tenth. In J.T. Wren (Ed.), The Leaders Companion: Insights on Leadership Through the Ages (p. 53, 54). New York, NY: The Free Press.
Heider, J. (1985). The Tao of leadership. In J.T. Wren (Ed.), The Leaders Companion: Insights on Leadership Through the Ages (p. 53, 54). New York, NY: The Free Press.