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Leadership styles and fear of freedom

December 15, 2012

There is some rather old research referred to in a book that is itself 20 years old, which caught my interest nonetheless.

Leadership styles…

After the Nazi Holocaust, Kurt Lewin, Ritchie and Ritchie explain, “became the founder of social psychology. he turned from abstract psychological theory and devoted all his energies to an extraordinary series of applied social studies, all of which centred on revealing the roots of anti-semitism [-p.25] and contrasting autocratic and democratic leadership styles [Lewin, K (1948) Resolving Social Conflicts, Selected Papers on Group Dynamics New York: Harper]. Lewin, himself an unlikely ideologue, dramatically demonstrated how leadership ideologies influenced, indeed drastically changed, the behaviour of followers. In one of his studies of boys’ clubs a switch from democratic leadership to fascist domination resulted in behaviours we associate with the Nazi brownshirts and the Gestapo. Dominance hierarchies were established, with downward pecking order, scapegoating, and victimisation, and led to a general upsurge of overt displays of aggression. Some boys simply crumbled and became the submissive victims of others.” (pp24-25)

I’m sure the research has developed from here, but these ideas are interesting – how are different models of leadership perpetuated through our fiction? To what effect?

How does fiction ‘teach us’ (in a presumably additive way) to shoulder responsibility – what kinds of responsibilities, within what kinds of social structures?

Ref: Jane Ritchie and James Ritchie (1993) Violence in New Zealand. Huia Publishers and Daphne Brasell Associates: Wellington


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