This article contributes to conversations about the “Hitler problem” in leadership ethics and the use of literary narratives in leadership studies by proposing Tolkien’s fiction as a model of leadership. Resonating with Aristotelian and Thomistic themes, these narratives present leadership as more a matter of practical wisdom than of morally neutral craft, or, more precisely, they model leadership as a matter of using craft for the sake of wisdom’s ends. Those ends become intelligible in terms of a triadic account of human action that depicts it as a response to a gift or call. I argue that this model of leadership suggests that Hitler-type leaders are corrupted leaders, rather than partially excellent leaders or no leaders at all. I also maintain that these insights demonstrate the fruitfulness for leadership studies of approaching literary narratives in something like the way scientists treat their models.
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I am grateful to Kenrick-Glennon Seminary for the sabbatical during which this article was written; to Fr. Rothschild of St. Dominic Savio Catholic Church for the generous offer of office-space for the sabbatical; and to the faculty colloquium at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary for lively conversation and helpful comments on an earlier draft. I also owe a debt of gratitude to the blind reviewers for this journal, whose insightful comments enabled me to improve this paper significantly.
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The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
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Colton, R.G. Modeling Leadership in Tolkien’s Fiction: Craft and Wisdom, Gift and Task. J Bus Ethics 163, 401–415 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-018-4052-6