Fundamentals of Social Psychology

Chapter 36: Social Leadership

Emory S. Bogardus

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A LEADER drives or draws other persons, compels or attracts, uses a "big stick" or the still small voice of service.


Historically, the majority of leaders have been autocrats, resorting repeatedly to fear and to paternalistic appeals. For example, the old-fashioned type of warden falls easily into an attitude of arbitrariness, which he makes unbearable by suppressing the personal freedom of prisoners. His contacts are chiefly physical ; he has no social relations with the "inmates."[1]

There are two types of autocratic leadership as evidenced in the distinction between Prussian and West Point methods. The Prussian military system was that of developing automatic, habitual, and machine-like obedience to the voice of the superior officer. The West Point method strives to secure "the loyal support of active minds." The soldier is considered as an intelligent person who is being trained to respond rationally to situations and to orders, or the lack of them, in relation to situations. The Prussian system capitalizes human abilities for brainless responses; the West Point method is a step toward democratic leadership.

An important distinction may be made between goal and method.[2] Some leaders (I) seek autocratic goals, goals of individual power, by democratic methods; some (2) seek democratic goals by autocratic methods, some (3) seek autocratic goals by autocratic methods, others (4) seek democratic goals by democratic methods. It is the first and second types which mystify the public; the third is easily recognized; the fourth is the most difficult to attain, and will be discussed at length in a later chapter.

In treating his fellows the leader may rely on fear and hope. To the extent that his fellows fear him they will follow, perhaps reluctantly, hypocritically, and for a short time—until an auspicious moment to revolt

( 419) seems to have arrived. A person in authority is prone to wield the club of fear over his fellows and thus become a "boss, "slave-driver," or a "czar." This method often is the easiest and quickest in securing prompt obedience, because "the large place occupied by fear in human nature makes domination easy. Thus, workmen have a fearfulness of losing their jobs and submit to the domination of their jobs for the sake of holding them."[3] It is also the traditionally military procedure. The soldiers who fail to obey orders promptly are shot; the workmen who foment labor troubles are "discharged." To challenge a policeman may mean immediate arrest and a jail experience.

The autocratic leader may also appeal to hope. Those who obey slavishly, who jump to do the leader's bidding, who follow most implicitly, who challenge least, are rewarded with favors ; they may even be promoted over the heads of more competent associates. Through appealing to the hopes of his fellows a leader may acquire an army of blind, docile, and servile followers.

A limited appeal to both fear and hope by a leader is probably justifiable, but the process can not go far without creating sham-followers. It is a wise leader who can keep his actions guided wholly by constructive goals, and not fall before the temptation to build up a personal following by arousing the fears and hopes of persons willing to act as his underlings. Many political leaders, for example, are guilty of fostering coteries of office-seekers or grafters, while some business leaders are guilty of creating a servile labor force. It is easy, also, for one who is superior to use his ability to control others, and to acquire the symbols of superiority, such as wealth and position, and then to use the social advantages thus secured "to achieve still greater superiority."[4]

The interaction between fear and suspicion on one hand, and autocracy and brutality on the other hand is made clear by Tannenbaum in his description of certain prison situations.

The suppression and the lack of personal freedom, the monotony of their existence, the constant atmosphere of hatred, suspicion, and contempt, tend to contort, to twist, and to make bitter the attitude of the keeper toward his charges. The only relation he can have with them is that of dominance, and the only pleasure and play he can get, the only exercise of initiative of his disposal, comes through the imposition of authority. He needs pleasures, because all men need pleasures; but his pleasures become, through the prisonmachine, the exercise of brutality for him and pain for others.[5]

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Every significant social movement revolves about one or more active personalities. "Not until the cause, the movement is embodied in one or more masterful personalities who lead the mass, is there any chance of the success of the cause."[6] The reason is that people as a rule are not sufficiently motivated by abstractions ; they cannot develop loyalty to any abstract concept as well as to personalities.[7] Christianity, thus originated in a self-sacrificing and dynamic personality and was carried forward by a series of virile personalities.

Unworthy leaders may wreck a splendid cause ; while narrow-minded persons in control may inaugurate and carry to fruition a movement undermining the welfare of a whole population. The strategic position of the leader makes the quality of his actions of vast moment. Agitators are especially dangerous as soon as they come into positions of real leadership. They have been agitated advocates and extremists so long that they easily become unbalanced wielders of authority. The repeated defeat of free government in Ireland was caused perhaps as much by the unreasonable agitator-leader in Ireland as by the obstinate Englishman.

Enthusiasm is another element in leadership which is contributed by personality. It was Paul Revere's ride ; Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty, or give me death ;" Sheridan's, "Turn boys, turn, we're going back ;" Roosevelt's "We stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord ;" Wilson's dynamic slogan "make the world safe for democracy," which gave life to arduous causes and difficult tasks, reinvigorating tired, disheartened, even cynical followers.


Leadership acquires momentum. If a person succeeds as a leader, he is called on repeatedly. Being of wider interests than the ordinary individual he belongs to more groups than does the latter. To the extent that he is a successful leader, the demands from each of the groups to which he belongs multiply. Leadership in a specific group tends to become concentrated in a few persons. Moreover, some of these persons are also the leaders in other groups. There is an overlapping of leadership, or several points at which there is an overlapping. This polarization of

( 421) leadership has been well illustrated in a diagram by F. Stuart Chapin, who advances the following hypothesis [8] : "Leadership in the community is usually vested in an inner circle of personnel common to several active groups."

As the demands upon a person for leadership multiply, he begins to spread his energies out until he becomes inefficient in some of his leadership positions. In other words he reaches a leadership saturation point, and groups that count on him find him failing them ; they suffer or may even disintegrate. In this connection, Chapin's hypothesis is: Polarization of leadership within the community as between groups tends to elaborate until a leader's range of elasticity for participation in group activity is passed, when some one or more groups begin to disintegrate until an equilibrium of group activity is restored.[9] A point to be added to this hypothesis is the possibility of making more leaders, thus offsetting polarization of leadership.


The idea of measuring leadership ability springs from Thorndike's classic assumption that whatever exists, exists in some amount, and what has quantity can be measured. This idea has some justification in the achievements of intelligence testing, accomplishment testing, and similar developments in the field of scientific social research. The success that has attended the efforts of investigators such as Hornell Hart in measuring social attitudes, or of W. W. Clark in devising a scale for measuring juvenile offenses, make plausible the hypothesis that leadership traits can be measured.

The procedure for measuring leadership would include first the securing of evidences of leadership in a specific field of endeavor. These evidences would be statements in objective terms of conduct which constitute the given person's main leadership activities.

The next step is to have the evidences graded by persons, who, in addition to possessing a broad and scientific training in social psychology and related social science subjects, are also recognized as successful democratic and constructive leaders in the various fields of social welfare. But a serious difficulty arises in that the graders are almost certain to reflect their personal attitudes in the process, so that we get not a rating of leadership activities, but what the judges think about leadership. If some are autocratic in attitude, and others democratic, their ratings will vary

( 422) widely and hence be invalid.[10] Even a high degree of correlation in their findings might show simply that they had the same prejudices.

We then arrange the evidences in groups according to types of conduct. In the study of the leadership achievements of a minister, the groups of evidences might be those relating to "style of delivery," "sermon subject matter and its treatment," "pulpit methods," "pastoral activities," "administrative activities," and so forth. The next procedure is to arrange each evidence under its appropriate "group heading," according to the median of the grades that is given it by the graders. By such a standard score sheet it is possible to score the leadership achievements of specific leaders in a given occupation more accurately than by any method now available, more accurately than by a simple guess, or by a personal opinion hastily ventured.

The working out of standard score sheets for various occupations and professions will give a superior technique for estimating the worth of leaders in these fields. Persons aspiring to leadership in a given occupation may perceive what are the values rated highest in that occupation; they may also rate themselves against the score sheet, and can discover personal deficiencies.


An outstanding two-fold division of leadership is the reflective and executive types. The first lays chief emphasis on reflective thought, teaching, writing—without giving much attention to administration ; the second refers to persons who are engaged mainly in "doing things" and in getting others to do things. In the first case, thinking is a characteristic to the exclusion of working directly with people. There is activity, but of a specialized type ; namely, that of analyzing, synthesizing, explaining, deducing, generalizing. In the second instance, thinking is a vital factor, but highly specialized, for it relates chiefly to coming quickly to conclusions, to making decisions, to meeting crises, and to manipulating people.

The executive type lives an associative life, at least, with a few chosen lieutenants ; the intellectual leader lives in the company of ideas. The executive manipulates people ; the intellectual manipulates ideas. The first is so busy in meeting speaking engagements, attending committee and board

( 423) meetings, and holding conferences that he has little time for deep reflection upon fundamentals except as these crop out disconnectedly in daily experiences. The second is so busy in reflecting that he grows absent-minded, drifts from normal social contacts, becomes impractical.

The difficulty of combining a strenuous administrative life with a reflective, laboratory life is great. It is only persons with an extraordinary amount of energy and endurance, other things being equal, and a definite arrangement of hours, who can long keep up both types of work. Usually they alternate between both, although that procedure is hard to follow, for success both administratively and intelligently leads to so many demands that the ordinary leader is unable to find time to meet the requirements of both.

The executive as a rule is characterized by greater physical force and endurance, "push," and activity, but by less depth of sound theorizing than the intellectual leader. He usually makes more social contacts daily, is closer in touch with affairs, more red-blooded, and aggressive. He generally commands the higher salary and receives recognition from society sooner than the scientific or literary intellectual. The latter works for ends that are more intangible, that are farther removed, leads a less exhaustive life, enjoys greater personal freedom, and by later generations may be rated higher.


Leaders are either group manipulators, group representatives, group builders, or group originators.[11]

I. The group manipulator is sensitive to group emotions and able to express in pleasing and effective ways the desires of the people. Often by oratorical or spectacular methods, he obtains wide popularity, political preferment, or vast wealth. As a rule he fails to give his constituents adequate returns for their investment in him. His ultimate objective is not their advantage but his own. He uses his followers as stepping stones. Having once gained the confidence of his group he trades upon it; and before it breaks, he may have repeatedly made the group his cat's paw. Often he "hypnotizes" his fellows or at least those who are gullible to nice-sounding phrases. In this class is the advertiser who announces something which catches the fancy but possesses little utility

( 424) or genuine beauty, the seller of oil stock who makes dazzling forecasts, the politician who glibly promises a new era of prosperity.

Sometimes the manipulator appeals to the crowd spirit in a worthy cause, for example, Sargent, the manager of Modjeska when the Polish actress was touring the country, arranged the following "stunt" which in modified ways was widely copied.

When Modjeska appeared in Washington the rush for tickets was so terrific that the crowd smashed the windows of the box office and tore everything movable out of the lobby, necessitating the calling of the police to quell the riot. This was a carefully planned scheme of Sargent's to advertise his star and news of the incident was telegraphed all over the country.[12]

The group manipulator takes note of the vague desires of the crowd, crystallizes these inchoate yearnings, and capitalizes them in terms of personal aggrandizement. He drives his subjects hither and yon at vital sacrifices to themselves, and not infrequently to his own downfall, as the Kaiser and his military cohorts led the German people to defeat in 1914-1918. He is essentially autocratic, but in a democracy he is an adept in assuming the guise of democratic leadership.

2, The group representative, while a personification of the unexpected feelings as well as of the formulated opinions of his constituents, is also the spokesman of their will. The worthy labor leader is a group representative. Under the pure democratic form of a republic, the legislator is expected to represent public opinion. In our country we often fail to keep our legislators apprized concerning our attitudes even on fundamental issues, unless we represent professionally a special interest, and hence our representatives tend to retrograde into group manipulators or politicians.

3. The group builder, in the finest sense of the term, tries to find out the best interests of his group and to lead accordingly. His concern is entirely with the welfare of his fellows and in helping them to live and act together with increasing harmony, justice, and progress. He determines the causes of social friction, injustice, or inertia, outlines steps of reconstruction, and pilots the way. The group builder employs all the good will that he can summon. He organizes social good will within his group and harmonizes men wherever possible without sacrificing societary principles. If he must antagonize,, he proceeds in a social spirit and wherever feasible substitutes understanding for ignorance, good will for ill will, and organization for chaos. He does not try to conquer, for conquering, per

( 425) se, not only fails to win respect and love, but feeds the appetite for further conquering. The group builder tries to discover what is harmonious, just, and constructive for his group, and then endeavors to weave these ideals into the life of the group.

4. The group originator, possessed by a new idea, proceeds to win persons to the acceptance of that idea. He may utilize or ignore organized

efforts. Today in Western civilization it is not uncommon for a committee to be called together and an organization to be launched immediately upon the first expression of a new idea or program. History, however, discloses other emphases, such as those of the Founder of Christianity, who attempted no special organization, but preferred to change human hearts and then to allow remotivated personalities to work out his principles. The group originator at his best aims to create leaders, to stimulate initiative and invention in conjunction with a socialized spirit in all persons, and hence to provide for the largest and richest possible development of human personalities.

In no case can the leader, even of the best group builder and group originator types, ignore group opinion. At times he must patiently wait on group opinion; by all means he cannot afford to become impatient of it. He must educate the group up to his aims. President Wilson's failure to get the support of the American public behind his world ideals is partly explained by his ignoring of public opinion:

He did not seem to realize that what the Kansas farmer and the Chicago clerk thought of the Fourteen Points was infinitely more important for his hopes and the hope of the world than what reply Counts Czernin and Hertling made to them.[13]


A person may become a leader through accident of social circumstances, through "pull," or by hypocrisy, but if he lives in a democracy he will not be able to maintain his leadership long unless he proves efficient. In a democracy also, he who is truly efficient becomes thereby a leader and sooner or later, barring accident, is sought out and socially recognized.

In business, efficiency is usually an ability "to make money ;" in politics, to make a speech or create an organization which controls votes.  In the ministry, to make "conversions" or to build churches. The popular understanding, however, of efficiency is generally inadequate, and may even the opposite of scientific. Hence a leader who is efficient in social welfare measures is almost certain to be opposed by money-making leaders

( 426) or soul-winning leaders. He will be charged with being a "radical ;" and if he persists, he will have his character and motives impugned and become the victim of persecution. He arouses the antagonism of conservatives and all the other beneficiaries of "the god of things as they are," although later generations may rise up and call him blessed.


1. Leaders drive or draw.

2. Reliance on fear and force in leadership produces autocracy.

3. By appealing to hope and reward an autocratic leader may create large numbers of subservient followers.

4. All great social movements revolve about strong personalities.

5. The measuring of leadership ability depends on securing a large body of scientific data regarding the nature of leadership.

6. Leadership may stress either reflective or executive activities.

7. Leaders will be group manipulators, group representatives, group builders, or group originators.

8. Current achieving is the best test of leadership ability.


1. Define an autocratic leader.

2. What is meant by measuring leadership?

3. In what ways are executive and reflective leaders different?

4. In what ways are they alike?

5. Distinguish between leaders as group representatives and as group builders.

6. What makes it possible for group manipulators to succeed extensively even under modern civilization conditions?

7. Why is present achievement better than past achievement as a test of a leader's ability?


1. Is it easier for a leader to draw or drive?

2. Is autocratic leadership ever justifiable?

3. Why do some men enjoy being slave-drivers of their fellow-men?

4. What is meant by "individual ascendancy" as opposed to "social ascendancy"?

5. Is "the proverbial individualism of the farmer" the same as individuality and potential leadership?

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6. Why do many people imagine their leadership ability greater than it actually is?

7. Explain : It is the work of a leader "to pull triggers in the mind of his followers."

8. Which boys are the more likely to become good leaders, those from mansions or those from cabins?

9. How can a leader of splendid ability but of immoral habits be prevented from demoralizing the group?

I0. Why does leadership assume maximum importance in times of transition?

11. What are the characteristics of a successful yell leader?

12. Why do the sons of leaders of the "self-made" type rarely show the qualities of leadership which their fathers manifested?

13. Have "all advances in civilization"been due to leaders?

14. How far should one's personality be introduced into his work?

15. Are rural or urban communities in the greater need of leadership?

16. Why are some of the world's most valuable leaders unpopular?

17. When should a leader be an agitator; when a compromiser; and when a "standpatter"?

18. What are the differences between a demagogue and a statesman?

19. Is a young man or an old man more apt to be led by friends?

20. Why does a leader's boasting beget suspicion rather than confidence?


Cooley, C. H., Social Organization (Scribners, 1909), Chs. XXIII, XXIV.

———, Social Process (Scribners, 1918), Ch. VI.

Mumford, Eben, "Origins of Leadership." Amer. Jour. of Sociology, XII: 216-40, 367-97, 500-31

Ross, E. A., Social Control (Macmillan, 1908), pp. 30-34.

Thomas and Znaniecki, Polish Peasant in Europe and America (Badger, 1920), IV :181-208.

Todd, A. J., Theories of Social Progress (Macmillan, 1918), Chs. XXVI, XXVII.

Ward, L. F., Applied Sociology (Ginn, 1916), Part II.

Webster, Hutton, "Primitive Individual Ascendancy," Publications of the American Sociological Society, XII: 46-60.


  1. Frank Tannenbaum, Wall Shadows (Putnam, 1922), p. 24.
  2. Discussed further in Chapter XXXVIII. 418
  3. J. M. Williams, Principles of Social Psychology (Knopf, 1922), p. 30.
  4. Ibid., p. 36.
  5. Wall Shadows, pp. 28, 29.
  6. C. A. Ellwood, Reconstruction of Religion (Macmillan, 1922), p. 149.
  7. Ibid.
  8. 'Leadership and Group Activity," Jour. of Applied Sociology, VIII: 144.
  9. Ibid., p. 145.
  10. The grading may be made according to some standard plan ; for example, on the basis of ten to one—ten for the evidences considered most important, and one for those considered of little value.
  11. The classification of leaders which is given by Martin Conway in The Crowd in Peace and War, Chapters VI, VIII, unduly expands the crowd concept, and at the same time inadequately provides for genuine group builders and originators.
  12. Los Angeles Times, September 13, 1913.
  13. M. E. Ravage, The Malady of Europe (Macmillan, 1923), p. 128.

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