A Criticial Retrospective Look at the 1939 Anchor Research on Leadership Style

Year: 2018

Author: English, Fenwick

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Leadership style has become one of the tradmark questions when interviewing prospective educational leaders. Depending upon one's source there may be three, five, nine or even twelve such "styles" (Cherry, 2018).Few practitioners or researchers know the actual history of leadership style as a concept, or the "experimental studies of group life" conducted by famed German-American psychologist Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) involving 10 year old boys engaged in "theatrical mask-making for a period of three months" (Lewin, Lippitt and White, 1939, p. 271). This pioneering "scientific approach" with a path breaking experiment produced results that have become one of the leadership anchor studies still resonating in the field (Koech and Namusonge, 2012).This presentation will recreate the conditions of the original "scientific study" of leadership style reported in the Journal of Social Psychology in May 1939 authored by Kurt Lewin, Ronald Lippitt, and Ralph K. White under the title "Patterns of Aggressive Behavior in Experimentally Created 'Social Climates' to determine if the results merit the establishment of the idea that there is a consistent pattern of behavior in leaders which routinely derives the same results and which may be called a "style."Using the framework of evaluating the efficacy of experimental studies from Campbell and Stanley (1963); Bereiter (1966); and Hare (1976) this classic leadership study will be subjected to critique and re-evaluation with the key question being "How valid is the concept of leadership style as a benchmark in describing or understanding leadership?"ReferencesBereiter, C. (1966). Multivariate Analyses of the Behavior and Structure of Groups and Organizations" in R.B. Cattell (Ed.) Handbook of Multivariate Experimental Psychology (pp. 171-246). Chicago: Rand McNally & Company.Campbell, D. and Stanley, J.C. (1966). Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Research on Teaching. In N.L. Gage (Ed.) Handbook of Research on Teaching (pp. 171-246). Chicago: Rand McNally & Company.Cherry, K. (2018). Leadership Styles and Frameworks You Should Know". Verywellmind. Downloaded from https://www.verywellmind.com/leadership-styles-2795312Hare, A.P. (1976). Leadership. In A.P. Hare (Ed.) Handbook of Small Group Research (pp. 278-303). New York: The Free Press.Koech, P.M. and Namusonge, G.S. (2012). The Effect of Leadership Styles on Organizational Performance at State Corporations in Kenya. International Journal of Business and Commerce, 2 (1), 1-12.Lewin, K., Lippitt, R. and White, R.K. (1939, May). Patterns of Aggressive Behavior in Experimentally Created Social Climates. Journal of Social Psychology, 10 (32), 271-299.