Leadership Experts from History – Nu Leadership Series

By on October 7, 2017

“Wealth in the new regime flows directly from innovation, not optimization; that is, wealth is not gained by perfecting the known, but by imperfectly seizing the unknown.”

Kevin Kelly

Did you ever wonder how individuals could make such a large impact on today’s leaders? We will take an express ride through history to review the key individuals shaping leadership thought through the backdrop of time.

In preparing this portion of our discussion, we used references from the Management Innovators by Daniel Wren and Ronald Greenwood, The Evolution of Management Thought by Daniel Wren. Through this process, we will reach two objectives which are to learn how leadership thought developed and transitioned and to discover how it influenced the prevailing leadership thoughts of today. Let’s take this journey. The following are the major contributors of leadership thought:

Frederick Taylor (1856 -1915) , an American engineer, is recognized as the father of scientific management. His contribution in the Industrial Era was significant because industrial operations of this period were simply inefficient, unsystematic, and uncooperative in nature. Managers had no work performance standards for workers; therefore, “a fair day’s work” was arbitrary. Taylor viewed operations as the collaboration of people and machines. Taylor’s philosophy provided appropriate work performance standards and wages for laborers. His contributions are still seen today in human resource management and industrial engineering.

Henri Fayol (1841-1925), a French management practitioner, influenced the 20th century with his theories on scientific organization of labor. Fayol’s approach was simply amazing during this timeframe because no one had been able to simplify the complex operational processes in

industry. Fayol was the first to identify the functional areas of management: planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling. His functional approach to management is still the dominant way of organizing management knowledge today.

K. Max Weber (1864-1920), a German political economist and sociologist, is considered one of the founders of modern public administration. Weber contended that managers’ authority in an organization should be based not on tradition or charisma but on the position held by managers in the organization hierarchy. Weber’s ideas formed the basis for modern organization theory and are still descriptive of some organizations.

Elton Mayo (1880-1949), a Harvard Business School professor of industrial research, is widely known for his contributions to the Hawthorne Studies in the Industrial Era. The Hawthorne Studies were critical in advancing human relations factors to all organizations. He concluded that employees’ work performance is dependent on both social issues and job content. Many of his research contributions are still being utilized in organizational behavior and development.

Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933), a social worker and consultant, was a pioneer in the human relation movement. Even though Follet existed in a male-dominated society, her writings were read by business leaders in the 1920s and 1930s. Her concepts were not popular concepts in this period. Furthermore, Follet was simply a trail blazer because academic and professional opportunities were limited for females. Follett advocated integration of work tasks and power sharing. Her contributions are still being implemented today.

Douglas McGregor (1906 -1964), an MIT professor, wrote a book, The Human Side of Enterprise, that had a profound influence on management practices during the Industrial Era. He outlined two types of managers, Theory X and Y. The prevailing view of the time was that employees needed to be forced to work because employees lacked self-motivation (Theory X). McGregor’s contributions are still being utilized in organizational development area as well as mainstream organizations.

W. Edwards Deming (1900 – 1993), an American statistician, was widely credited with improving production in the US during World War II, but best known for statistic work in Japan in the 1950s. During this era, American operations were seen by Deming as wasteful and inefficient; he challenged the management status quo. His management principles included institutionalizing leadership where managers assist people and machines to do a better job. Aspects of Deming’s total quality management principles can still be seen in society.

Robert Greenleaf (1904-1990), a renowned author, emerged as one of the premier figures in leadership, education, management, nonprofit, and religious circles. He created the modern concept of “The Servant Leader” in 1970.

At the time, the Servant Leadership style challenged the prevailing leadership paradigm by rejecting the “Top Down” On the contrary, Greenleaf’s Leadership style emphasized collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power. His approach is founded in Jesus’ teachings on leadership. This approach is being used by many of today’s organizations.

In conclusion, these individuals were unselfish in providing their contributions to society and the advancement of leadership thought. We owe them much thanks in this endeavor.


Barnet, T. (n.d.). Management Thought. Received on February 15, 2006 from http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/management/Log-Mar/Management-Thought.html.

Bass, B. (1999). Bass & stogdill’s handbook of leadership. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Northouse, P. (2004). Leadership theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Wikipedia. (2006). Received on February 16, 2006 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page.

Wren, D. (2005). The evolution of management thought. Hooboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Wren, D. & Greenwood, R. (2005). Management innovators. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

© 2006 by Daryl D. Green

Source by Dr. Daryl D. Green

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