be. For the past few decades \u2014 at least since the genre- defining bookLeadership by historian James MacGregor Burns was published in 1978 \u2014 writers on business and society have understood that the quality of a leader\u2019s character makes all the difference. Burns, for example, wrote that civilization depended on its \u201ctransforming\u201d leaders \u2014 those who didn\u2019t just solve the problems handed to them, but who helped to raise society as a whole to higher levels of motivation and morality. Other business writers picked up the theme: Corporations, as Warren Bennis put it, also needed leaders who could not just \u201cdo things right\u201d but also \u201cdo the right thing.\u201d
But what sorts of leaders could be counted on to do the right thing? Creative, experimental risk takers, like Richard Branson? Charismatic, domineering battlers
like Lee Iacocca? Ruthless pursuers of performance like Jack Welch? Dedicated \u201cservant leaders\u201d like Herman Miller\u2019s Max De Pree? Quiet stoics like Darwin Smith, the CEO of Kimberly-Clark whom Jim Collins lauded inGood to Great ? Or simply people whose \u201cleadership secrets\u201d have been collected, like Attila the Hun? Each style has had its advocates and acolytes over the years. But for all the sophistication of the experts, for all the books published on the subject, there is still no defini- tive consensus on the most effective style of leadership.
Indeed, the quality of individual leadership matters. In case after case, in organizations and in society at large, when the single individual at the top is replaced, every- thing else changes \u2014 either for the better or for the worse. But the effectiveness of leaders depends, more than is generally realized, on the context around them.
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