Chapter | Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice | 2010

Leadership and History

by Walter A. Friedman

Abstract

Historians have written a lot about business leaders, especially successful ones. In fact, rags-to-riches stories have come to embody the philosophy of America itself, yet the term "business leadership" was rarely used until the early twentieth century. This chapter looks at historians who have studied the functional role of leadership and have aligned it with the early twentieth-century economist Joseph Schumpeter's definition of entrepreneurship: a creative-destructive process carried out both by individual agents and by those working in firms. (It was Schumpeter who famously described the entrepreneur as a "rogue elephant" who has the courage and chutzpah to overturn the existing order.) The author focuses on the work done at Harvard's Research Center in Entrepreneurial History--in existence only from 1948-1958, yet home to some of the most prominent scholars in sociology, economics, and history. He reviews the research of two historians, Fritz Redlich and Alfred Chandler, who use history to illuminate the phenomenon of leadership, particularly the concept of leadership as a "disruptive art."

Keywords: Entrepreneurship; History; Leadership;

Citation:

Friedman, Walter A. "Leadership and History." Chap. 11 in Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, edited by Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana. Harvard Business Press, 2010.