| Academy of Management Annals
Uncovering Mechanisms of Theory Development in an Academic Field: Lessons from Leadership Research
A long-standing debate in organization studies has centered on the tension between paradigmatic consensus and theoretical pluralism in an academic field, but little attention has been paid to the underlying processes of field development that account for this. Using a mechanisms-based approach, we examined the field of leadership over the last 50 years (1957-2007) focusing on: scholarly consensus on theory and methods; models and variables; and examinations of the state of the field. In spite of considerable advances in research, we find a general lack of commensuration or standards by which theories can be compared or synthesized; an emphasis on leaders' effects on performance rather than meaning-making or value infusion; and sparse instances of taking stock of the overall field. We conclude by proposing three research strategies for the future—theoretical compartmentalization, theoretical integration, and theoretical novelty—and advocating greater methodological variety.