How Did Leader Become a Job Title? Part 1

Posted: February 20, 2011 in Leadership, Management
Tags: ,

When I first came up with this title, it wasn’t meant to be a serious question. As I reflected on it, however, I thought “that actually is a good question.” So I decided to do some research and see if I could figure it out.  What follows is not an academic treatise on the subject, but rather more my opinion based on some key incites.

History has presented us with the stories of many great leaders.  They predominantly include religious, military, and social/political figures.  The leaders’ titles, however, are typically associated with their positions or roles.  Military titles include General, Admiral, and Marshall.  Some of the religious titles are Pope, Minister, Rabbi, Lama, Monk, and Ayatollah. And of course, President, King, Prime Minister, Emperor and Czar are a few political/ruler titles.

While, many great leaders have been identified throughout history, the term leader has been used as a descriptor, not a title.

Key Development: Around 400 BC, that’s 2,400 years or 2.4 millenniums ago, Xenophon writes the first systemic book on leadership, Kyropaidaia, and later, Anabasis. (More about the book later)

Let’s fast forward to the Industrial Revolution where bureaucracy now reigns supreme. With the organization of labor, new positions are required to manage the expanding and more complex organizations. Job titles like gang-boss, supervisor, and manager are created and based on the actions that describe the role of the position, all of which support the concepts of command and control. The title of Foreman may be the exception, but the role is similar.

Later in the in the 1880s and 1890s within the manufacturing industries, Frederick Taylor introduces Scientific Management, or One Best Way, which reinforces the concepts of command and control.

Key Development: In 1949, Rex Warner translates Xenophon’s Anabasis into The Persian Exhibition.

From the Publisher: Xenophon, a young Athenian noble who sought his destiny abroad, provides an enthralling eyewitness account of the attempt by a Greek mercenary army – the Ten Thousand – to help Prince Cyrus overthrow his brother and take the Persian throne. When the Greeks were then betrayed by their Persian employers, they were forced to march home through hundreds of miles of difficult terrain – adrift in a hostile country and under constant attack from the unforgiving Persians and warlike tribes. In this outstanding description of endurance and individual bravery, Xenophon, one of those chosen to lead the retreating army, provides a vivid narrative of the campaign and its aftermath.

Key Development: Peter Ferdinand Drucker, “The Father of Modern Management” reads Kyropaidaia of Xenophon and declares it to be the best book ever written on leadership. Drucker finds that both Kyropaidaia and The Persian Exhibition contain numerous examples of leadership.  In his mind, Xenophon sets the standard for leadership books. He maintains this conviction until his death in 2005.

To be continued…              How Did Leader Become a Job Title? Part 2

  1. Dale Smalley says:

    Your blog is terrific Rick — informative and a pleasure to read. Consider me a subscriber.

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