The Structure of Moral Leadership

  • James MacGregor Burns


Leadership is a process of morality to the degree that leaders engage with followers on the basis of shared motives and values and goals — on the basis, that is, of the followers’ “true” needs as well as those of leaders: psychological, economic, safety, spiritual, sexual, aesthetic, or physical. Friends, relatives, teachers, officials, politicians, ministers, and others will supply a variety of initiatives, but only the followers themselves can ultimately define their own true needs. And they can do so only when they have been exposed to the competing diagnoses, claims, and values of would-be leaders, only when the followers can make an informed choice among competing “prescriptions”, only when — in the political arena at least — followers have had full opportunity to perceive, comprehend, evaluate, and finally experience alternatives offered by those professing to be their “true” representatives. Ultimately the moral legitimacy of transformational leadership, and to a lesser degree transactional leadership, is grounded in conscious choice among real alternatives. Hence leadership assumes competition and conflict, and brute power denies it.


Transformational Leadership Political Arena Political Consciousness Moral Legitimacy Moral Leadership 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • James MacGregor Burns
    • 1
  1. 1.Williams CollegeUSA

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