Scholars Get Serious About Leadership

Last Updated May 13, 2010 7:59 AM EDT

Business management scholars have spent relatively little time over the last 100 years on the subject of leadership -- it's an incredibly complex phenomenon.

"If we look at the leading research universities and at the business schools within them, the topic of leadership is actually given fairly short shrift," says Harvard Business School professor Rakesh Khurana, who along with newly appointed HBS Dean Nitin Nohria has just published the Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice.
But that's all changing now, and the results could fundamentally change how we operate our businesses in the not-to-distant future. Leadership is now a hotbed of scholarly interest and in a variety of fields. The book aims to collect together the latest research and key writings of the world's foremost scholars in psychology, economics, sociology, and history.

Among its conclusions:

  • Leaders do not require a formal position; rather, leadership is how one experiences oneself and how others experience us as individuals.
  • Leadership has to be understood through a variety of perspectives: impact, theory, variability; leadership in practice; and leadership development.
  • There is no single "best" style of leadership nor one set of attributes in all situations, no matter what management books you pick up at the airport may tell you.
Read an interview with Khurana in HBS Working Knowledge for more details on the work.
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.