Ilankai Tamil Sangam

19th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

On Leadership: Emory Bogardus Revisited

Part 1

by Sachi Sri Kantha

“To arouse entirely new attitudes and a new creative type of followers is the supreme height of leadership…The techniques are often those of the superior teacher, case-worker, parent, who challenge and give heavy responsibilities, who set forth unique opportunities, who make the impossible seem possible, who by deed or word arouse their followers to superhuman effort.”

In my ‘Pirabhakaran Phenomenon’ (2005) book, Chapter 2 was entitled ‘What is Leadership?’ (pp.9-13). In it, I cited the essays of Emory Bogardus (1882-1973), an eminent American sociologist from the University of Southern California, to compare the leadership performances of Tamil Nadu Tamil and Eelam Tamil leaders. I also distinguished between literacy and intelligence and argued by citing contemporary examples that,

  1. “Literacy is a much misused and misunderstood word. Many equate the meaning of ‘literate’ to ‘intelligent’, which in reality is as different from chalk and cheese.”
  2. “Literate people need not be intelligent, similarly intelligent people need not be literate.”
  3. “It is more or less a rule that to become a successful leader and hold the affection of his or her followers, one needs to be intelligent rather than being literate only.”

A couple of my correspondents have informed me that the second chapter of my Pirabhakaran book on ‘Leadership’ was helpful for them in their line of work, and they wished to read the original essays on leadership penned by Bogardus.

This year marks the 125th birth anniversary of Bogardus. He was born on February 21, 1882, and he died on August 21, 1973. To felicitate his memory, I provide below the complete text of Bogardus’s 1929 essay entitled, ‘Leadership and Attitudes.’ Take a look at the select list of names who were the nominal heads of government of six ranking countries, when Bogardus’s essay appeared in print.

Herbert Hoover (American President, had just assumed office).

Stanley Baldwin (British prime minister)

Joseph Stalin (Supreme Leader of Soviet Union)

Gaston Doumergue (French President)

Hermann Muller (Chancellor of Germany)

Giichi Tanaka (Prime Minister of Japan)

Among these six names, with the exception of Stalin, the other five have hardly left any of their imprints in 20th century history. Though they may have possessed some skills or virtues to ascend to the leadership ‘throne’ by design or accident, they hardly demonstrated any leadership which is worth recording in history books.

The Leadership Deficit in 1992 (or any year since 1945)

Prior to the thoughts of Bogardus on leadership, I provide excerpts from an essay by Prof. Jeffrey Sachs (Professor of International Trade at Harvard University), which appeared in Time magazine of November 9, 1992. It was entitled, ‘The Leadership Deficit’, and appeared in the week when the then American President George Bush (the father of current American President George W. Bush) had lost the election to Bill Clinton. I quote a few notable thoughts of Prof.Sachs:

“The collapse of communism may not have ended history, but it makes possible an era of peace and prosperity. Democracies do not wage war on one another, and the spread of free enterprise to the developing world and the former socialist countries will enable the evolution of a global marketplace in which rich and poor countries alike can participate and flourish. But a prosperous and peaceful world has yet to be won. Today’s leaders in the industrial world, mired as they are in recession and political strife, are squandering a historic opportunity.

For almost 50 years, the U.S. championed open markets and economic cooperation. Now that leadership is missing, and economic tensions are mounting. George Bush, the self-anointed ‘foreign policy President’, has failed to act in the face of the dramatic changes on the international economic scene…”

Prof. Sachs continued further:

“The Marshall Plan was also unpopular at the start, but President Harry Truman took his case to the country and carried the day – to the world’s lasting benefit. Among other things, he explained that a growing Europe would be a major customer for American exports, just as Russian demand for new machinery could today boost U.S. capital-goods industries stuck in recession…Bush has been too timid or too neglectful to make the case to the American people. Nor has he sought to lead the West, despite the enormous importance of Russia’s reforms for long term security. It appears that Saddam Hussein has received more U.S. loans than Yeltsin…”

Now in 2007,  Bush the Elder, is in well-earned retirement as a one-term President. His son Bush the Younger, has settled scores with Saddam Hussein. But still the leadership vacuum remains unfilled. In a lighter vein, I also noted that the same Time magazine issue which carried the thoughts of Prof. Jeffrey Sachs also posted in its Asian edition, the following tongue-in-cheek letter from V.V.S. Mani (from Bombay), in its Letters page. For its humorous dig at the Tamil political leadership of Tamil Nadu, I reproduce this letter. Mani wrote,

“I never thought that Democratic elections in an advanced country like the U.S. would be fought with such meanness, with the presidential candidates slinging mud at each other and their families. If this is the way Bush and Clinton want to campaign, then they should do it with professional skill. I suggest they send their campaign managers to Madras to learn a few choice invectives from the political leaders of the Tamil Nadu movement. Nobody can beat them at this game.”

I would add that Mani’s comments cover not only Tamil Nadu, but the whole of India. The last Indian political leader who exhibited some strokes of leadership was Indira Gandhi. All the men who followed her as prime ministers of India were pale and insignificant pygmies. The less said the better about the post-independence Sinhalese political leadership in Sri Lanka, for the past 60 years. Those who have held the reins of leadership as the island’s prime ministers or presidents have been only impostors, among whom quite a handful (Dudley Senanayake, Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Chandrika Kumaratunga) who were anointed solely due to immediate kinship links.

Bogardus has provided two definitions for a leader. These are, “A leader is a person (1) who surpasses his fellows in achieving in some particular plane of activity, and (2) whose achievement is recognized by his fellows as being superior.” The March 26th demonstration of Air Tiger display in Katunaike by the LTTE is a good example of what Bogardus identified in his essay as the supreme of the three types of leadership; that is, “To arouse entirely new attitudes and a new creative type of followers is the supreme height of leadership…The techniques are often those of the superior teacher, case-worker, parent, who challenge and give heavy responsibilities, who set forth unique opportunities, who make the impossible seem possible, who by deed or word arouse their followers to superhuman effort.”

Team Pirabhakaran did it and Eelam Tamils and their sympathizers can be proud about this. There have appeared coughing and scoffing punditry in the parochial news media about the Air Tiger performance. One should be reminded that even the pioneering flying efforts of the Wright Brothers received similar coughing and scoffing from the arm-chair cynics.

Now to Emory Bogardus. This essay contains 9 foot-notes, which are provided at the end.

Leadership and Attitudes

by Emory S.Bogardus

[courtesy: Sociology & Social Research, March-April 1929; vol.13, no.4, pp.377-381]

Leadership is the special influence that one person exercises over other persons.[1] It is manifested when one human being arouses the dormant attitudes of other persons, changes the attitudes of others, or arouses new attitudes in others. In each of these type-situations, the “other persons” are as important factors as the leader, and the process by which one person succeeds in affecting the attitudes of others is most important of all. In other words, there is always a social situation matrix wherein a leader and leadership operate. It is within this organic social unity that we must look if we would discern the meaning of leadership.

Autobiographies and biographies, the main sources for the study of leadership, are inadequate. As a rule they underestimate the importance of the social situation and social process phases of leadership. They emphasize the role of the leader but not of the led. The attitudes, including their natural history, of the followers as well of the number of persons large or small who refuse to be led, are largely overlooked. References to these main considerations are often most superficial. A new type of autobiography is needed – one that will concentrate on the social situation, the social process, and the attitudes and values of all concerned.

The nearest approach to this type of materials is the life history. But life history materials, so far, have usually been gathered with the view to studying the nature of social problems or of personal and social disorganization. The way that was opened by Thomas and Znaniecki promises well, although it has not been pursued far as yet. [2] Life histories of leaders as well as of the representative types of persons in the social situations in which the leaders have functioned would be invaluable for the scientific study of leadership.

The next most satisfactory data are obtained in a limited class of autobiographies to which persons like G.Stanley Hall or Mary Antin have made interesting contributions. These works center attention, in the main, on the psychological actions and reactions of the leaders themselves to their social environments. While they do not consider leadership distinctly as a social process, they throw light on reactions of one of the chief actors, namely, of the leader, in the whole social situation.

But even in as frank a work as Hall’s autobiography[3], the things that are said are often less significant than the things that evidently remain unsaid. Hall admitted that his autobiography had “certain reservations due to a cowardice which has caused me to fall below my own ideals and standards of unreservedness, and that certain passages are only keys to rooms in my house of life.”[4] How evident it must be, therefore, that other autobiographies are woefully incomplete.

Many immigrants have bared the natural history of many of their life conflicts. Mary Antin’s autobiography,[5] one of the first of a long list of striking documents to appear, is somewhat typical of the whole group, for only a partial account apparently is given. The personal struggles that are described are those which on the whole are brought upon the author by harsh and impinging circumstances. Then come the accounts of the partial or complete overcoming of these difficulties, and resultant gains in status. Struggles which would mean a loss of status are not recounted. Autobiographies as a class give one-half of the story, as it were, namely, those personal struggles, whose descriptions do not detract from but add to personal status. The other half is probably more important, for the study of both leadership and of personality.

Biographies are at once more and less satisfactory than autobiographies. They take a more objective viewpoint, may have a better perspective, and may glimpse the whole social situation and even the social processes at work. But most writers of biographies either do not have a sociological background, or if they do, they fall into the traditional pitfalls. They are also weak in that they do not extract the all-significant attitudes and give them proper objectification. Where the authors do have a sense of sympathetic induction, they tend to “read into” the lives of their heroes or heroines many interpretations that are unjustified.[6]

If the leader is one who arouses, changes, or creates new attitudes in the lives of other persons, then the study of leadership must deal with the attitudes of these “other persons”. In fact they become one of the chief sources of leadership. The natural history of all these attitudes and of the antecedent experiences which account for them is needed. These attitudes, experiences, and life organizations, and how they have been aroused, changed or created anew, tend to become the main objects for leadership study, as much as the leader himself. They are what the leader himself usually studies.

It is often the potential followers who influence the leader as much as the leader influences the followers.[7] It was Simmel who was one of the first to point out how the leader is subservient to the followers, how the followers may “walk out” on their leader, how they may refuse to respond or to be led, how they may choose imprisonment rather than obey the orders of some autocratic leader, and how the leader fears any negative or antagonistic responses that will lower his own status.[8] The well-established and relatively permanent behavior patterns, the urge for status, and the innumerable attitudes of the potential followers, are all dynamic and powerful forces that any would-be leader must treat respectfully. None of these may be wantonly violated.

To arouse the dormant attitudes of one’s fellows and become a leader is relatively easy. By being enthusiastic along traditional lines of activity, by ballyhooing, by raising the cry of “danger”, and by the use of other cheap devices, a member of a group may shoot up into the rank of leader without much difficulty.

To change human attitudes requires greater skill. The use of indirect suggestion, the setting of new, appropriate, and attractive examples, the creation of a pleasing atmosphere favorable to the desired change, the changing of the followers’ environmental conditions in ways to arouse pleasant feelings regarding the proposed changes – these are some of the techniques that create leadership of a higher order than is represented by the standpatter or ballyhoo type of leader.

To arouse entirely new attitudes and a new creative type of followers is the supreme height of leadership. To arouse unsuspected possiblities and originalities in other persons makes for the greatest leadership. The techniques are often those of the superior teacher, case-worker, parent, who challenge and give heavy responsibilities, who set forth unique opportunities, who make the impossible seem possible, who by deed or word arouse their followers to superhuman effort.[9]

Every age develops leaders that bespeak its fears, its longings, its creative urges. Established culture values represent in a peculiar way the groundwork of leadership. Social momentum or social stagnation are equally important desiderata. As a social process, leadership is that social interstimulation which causes a number of people to set out toward an old goal with new zest or a new goal with hopeful courage, - with different persons keeping different paces. The foremost is the leader, but without the others he never would have started, or having started he would not be a leader. Without the antecedent as well as the ever-continuing interstimulation, there would be no leadership. The interplay of attitudes is the dynamic heart of leadership.

Foot Notes

[1] Compare the writer’s definition of a leader in Sociology and Social Research, XII: 173, in the article on “Leadership and Social Distance”. A leader is a person (1) who surpasses his fellows in achieving in some particular plane of activity, and (2) whose achievement is recognized by his fellows as being superior.”

[2] The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, Knopf, New York, 1927, vol.II: Ch.II.

[3] The Confessions of a Psychologist, D.Appleton and Co., New York, 1923.

[4] Ibid., p.575.

[5] The Promised Land, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1914.

[6] Another important source of materials for the study of leadership is found in the results of leadership research. An early and valuable study of this type was made by Professor Eben Mumford, and published in the American Journal of Sociology, XII, 216-240, 367-397, 500-531. Dr.Mumford develops the idea that leadership develops in connection with the crises “entering into the social process.”

[7] In treatises such as E.B.Gowin, The Executive and his Control of Men (Macmillan, 1915), and W.D.Scott and D.T.Howard, Influencing Men in Business (Ronald, 1928), the important role of the potential followers and of their attitudes is indirectly present on nearly every page.

[8] The Social Philosophy of Georg Simmel, by Nicholas J.Spykman, University of Chicago Press, 1925, pp.95ff. Also Soziologie by Georg  Simmel, Leipzig, 1923, 135ff.

[9] It may be noted here that the three types of leadership discussed in the preceding paragraphs represent an ascending scale of difficulty but a descending scale of recognition.

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