By HYUN JOON CHOI, Richmond Hill, Canada
The Stanford Summer Humanities Institute (2016): "Marx, Nietzsche, Freud: The Master Thinkers of the Nineteenth Century."
While numerous studies on the leader have been conducted, the origin of today’s notion of the leader, and the functions and power relations it carries have not received much attention. In this paper, I examine the concept of the leader as an idealized social paragon dispersed throughout the social consciousness with the methodological basis of Nietzschean genealogy, thereby arriving at an understanding of the function, aim, and will behind the phenomenon of the leader. Particularly, I intend to investigate through an etymological study the origin and the history of the conceptualization of the leader that precedes and concurs with its present wide dispersion. I shed light on the mode in which the general concept of the leader has been transformed and moulded by the leadership literature that conceptualizes the leader and studies the means of developing leaders. Ultimately, through a rather schematic genealogical investigation, I intend to propose a reasonable hypothesis that the capitalist will to produce efficient workers for contemporary corporations is the drive behind the development and dispersion of the modern day concept of the leader.
The concept of leader has settled and dispersed itself throughout contemporary society. It has permeated into all social domains, and has established itself as an ideal paragon to be emulated as an increasing emphasis is placed on decentralized institutional decision-making. Today, innumerable media spotlight leaders as an object of admiration, and, as a matter of fact, many popular leader figures in the fields of business and politics have almost become idols to the general public. Hence, the leader, as an abstract image that embodies common and general elements of leader figures, in educational institutions, has also become a role model whose prime values are taught and transmitted to students, as it becomes a desired form of an individual and demands for leaders continue to increase. Leadership trainings in corporations and the innumerably repeated slogan of many educational institutions, “to grow the future leaders,” attest to this phenomenon. The leader is thus a paragon whose qualities every individual is encouraged to adopt and furthermore internalize, the latter being the aim of the exhaustive practice of leadership education.
Yet, while numerous studies on the leader have been conducted, the origin of today’s notion of the leader, and the functions and power relations it carries have not received much attention. In this paper, I examine the concept of the leader as an idealized social paragon dispersed throughout the social consciousness with the methodological basis of Nietzschean genealogy, thereby arriving at an understanding of the function, aim, and will behind the phenomenon of the leader. Particularly, I intend to investigate through an etymological study the origin and the history of the conceptualization of the leader that precedes and concurs with its present wide dispersion. I shed light on the mode in which the general concept of the leader has been transformed and moulded by the leadership literature that conceptualizes the leader and studies the means of developing leaders. Ultimately, through a rather schematic genealogical investigation, I intend to propose a reasonable hypothesis that the capitalist will to produce efficient workers for contemporary corporations is the drive behind the development and dispersion of the modern day concept of the leader.
Nietzschean genealogy opens up the possibility of studying moral “truth” in terms of the metamorphosis through which it became what it is: from its origin to its present reality. The genealogical investigation of moral truth in this fashion is possible, only because Nietzsche formulates his own distinctive view on truth and its birth. For Nietzsche, truth is a metaphor, mere “conventions of language,” but never a direct unadulterated reference to the reality, that has persisted and solidified through the history of forgetfulness as a result of the desire for “the pleasant, life-preserving consequences of truth.” Thus, truth is not a transcendental or metaphysical entity, but a practical convention. Furthermore, “truths are illusions of which we have forgotten that they are illusions.” Truths disguise themselves in the supposed transcendental and eternal status, made possible by habitual oblivions and inurement to truth as a convention. For Nietzsche, truth no longer falls on one side of the dichotomy between eternal truth or eternal untruth, but on the battlefield where the strong and the weak struggle for dominance. It is what survives the unceasing struggle for dominance, the product of the process in which anything in existence “is continually interpreted anew, requisitioned anew, transformed and redirected to a new purpose by a power superior to it.” In short, Nietzsche forcibly drags all truths down from their eternal heaven and resituates them in the domain of history, wherein they become a proper subject of genealogical inquiry.
Nietzschean genealogy is not to be equated with the “English” genealogical study of truths, which assumes that truths develop from their origin in a linear and continuous manner. Nietzsche clearly distinguishes his historical method from that of the English psychologists, as regards the fashion in which the “origin,” “forgetting,” “habit,” and “error” in the history of truth are accounted for. The English psychologists, Nietzsche claims, excavate the history of truth as a continuous preservation of a necessary origin by narrating the recognition of the inherent usefulness of truth (origin), the oblivion of the fact that there was the recognition of truth (forgetting), the habitual experience of truth (habit), and the gradual acceptance of truth as the eternal (error). Not only does this explanation contain a contradiction that the recognition of usefulness does not occur again after the first instance of such recognition, the English psychologists moreover “think in a way that is essentially unhistorical.” On the contrary, Nietzsche deems these four phases of the history of truth as a history of discontinuity in which the usefulness of truth has “impressed itself on consciousness with ever greater clarity” (italicization mine) in the struggle for dominance.
With this understanding of truth and history, Nietzschean genealogy allows a novel manner of examining the “origin,” “descent,” and “emergence” of truth. Nietzschean genealogists study the origin of truth not to retrace its unknown, immobile, metaphysical essence, but to debunk its transcendental status, and to reveal that it has no essence, or its “essence was fabricated in a piecemeal fashion from alien forms.” Hence, truth is no longer something that was, is, and will be always there unchanged. The descent is the process in which different layers of events are added upon the pristine origin, thereby mutating it. The aim of genealogy in studying the descent of truth, then, is to understand its heterogeneous nature, as a product of numerous dissimulations. Finally, emergence designates “the moment of rising.” Yet, emergence is never the final phase of the history of truth. Truth is always in the phase of emergence, and can never reach the state of stability, for it is always in the constant and unceasing struggle for dominance against opposing forces or wills, whereby interpretations are ceaselessly reinterpreted, and eventually replaced by other interpretations. Genealogy, by dissecting the reality of truth into these historical processes, enables the historical study of truth.
Although Nietzsche used his genealogy to critique mainly moral and religious truths, application of his genealogical method beyond the domain of truth is not only possible, but moreover extremely effective. Michel Foucault demonstrates such an application by his example of Discipline and Punish, where he analyzes the social phenomenon of punishment: its function, aim, and the power relations which effect it and which it effects. I intend to subject the concept of the leader to a genealogical investigation in a similar manner, examining its history to understand the power relations that it fulfills and by which it is fulfilled.
Genealogical Critique of Leader
Today, the notion of the leader is very complex, and contains many different meanings. It is very loose, vague, and diverse, and therefore requires some clarification and refinement. Firstly, the term leader not only designates a set of actual personages who possess certain qualities, but also a central core embodiment of the personal traits commonly associated with leader figures, which one is socially encouraged to acquire. The leader constitutes an ethical model that is to be emulated with sincere admiration. Secondly, enacting the concept of the leader should be distinguished from simply being a head of an institution or holding power. Whereas being a leader denotes the enactment of a certain character whose qualities are implicitly specified by the leader as a paragon, being a head refers to the general act of taking a decision-making position. In this sense, the notion of the leader is distinguished from traditional headships such as ruler and manager. Both ruler and manager are the positions that serve as a locus of power that supervises and controls a group or a system, but do not necessarily take the form of the leader. A leader is the realization of the abstract representation of a personality with certain characteristics. Thus, although those in such positions may enact the qualities of the leader, being a leader is not inherent to taking those positions. In sum, today the leader exists not only as a designation for specific people or positions, but as a realization of a unity of personal traits in the social consciousness.
The leader in its origin did not refer to an image of personality traits. First used around 1300 C.E., the word leader made a reference simply to “the person who leads,” where to lead means “to conduct by argument or representation to a conclusion.” Particularly, the word leader referred to politicians and statesmen who were documented in literature and honoured in stories, as the power of kings decreased and parliamentary power began to rise. Yet, both the word leader and lead did not contain any implication regarding power, position or personal traits, since the word leader did not serve any more function than simply referencing to “the person who leads,” with the meaning of the word lead having its emphasis on simply inducing certain results. The leader at its birth was defined by his action, and plainly as a person who leads; the word leader was simply an extension of the word lead, with the suffix –er, as its original definition “the person who leads” indicates. Thus the word leader was an empirical designation for the person who leads, without any evaluative or normative connotation while relating to a collection of qualities or behaviours as it does in the modern sense.
The leader was not a widely used concept or a significant idea until at least the mid seventeenth century. In the dictionaries of Candrey (1604) and Cockeran (1623), whose short length suggests selectivity of the lexicographers, the word leader and even its root form, the word lead, do not appear. It is therefore inferable that both words were not in wide use, or at least important, thematic words. However, a few decades after the publication of the two dictionaries, the usage of the word leader notably increased. The Google Ngram search of the percentage frequency of the word use reveals that in 1647 the word leader was used almost fifteen times more than in 1641. This rapid increase may possibly be attributed to the power politics between the parliament and the royal figures in England, where the discussion of who should be a leader and the need of leader may have been a crucial issue. Then the frequency of the usage drastically dropped after 1650, but began to increase gradually from around 1740, continuing to increase until today.
The neutral meaning of the word leader as a simple designation for those who lead was modified to the meaning with accented implications about power and exceptionalness from the eighteenth century. In Samuel Johnson’s dictionary published in 1755, the word leader was given the definition of “one that leads; captain, commander; one who goes first; and one at the head of a party or faction.” The definitions coming after the first casual one, “one that leads,” all have some implicit connotation of power, exceptionalness, and authority. The definition “captain, commander” contains a sense of prime superiority of those who are designated by the word leader; “one who goes first” implies that the leader is outstanding over those who come after, or follow; and “one at the head of a party” gives the impression of a leader as someone with a great political power. The same perception of the leader can be verified in William Perry’s Royal Standard English Dictionary (1788), where the word leader was similarly defined as “captain, conductor.” Moreover, in 1828, the definitions of the word lead came to include “allure; prevail on, influence; to exercise dominion.” Here it is implied that the word leader, the person who leads, is defined as having a special aura and power, possibly, in my speculation, due to the increasing popularity of the great man theory and the influence of Napoleon, though this speculation needs to be confirmed by a further research. Thus, the leader clearly became associated with the domineering power and exceptionalness.
Writings of prominent thinkers and literary works at the time also reflect this perception of the leader. Thomas Carlyle, William James, and John Stuart Mill are examples of the thinkers who praised the “great man” as the advancer of history who leads the progress. Similarly, most, if not all, tragic literary plays before the end of the nineteenth century represent only the noble or great man as capable of being a leader, who advances the plot by leading himself, and thereby accomplishes the Aristotelian tragedy, whereas commoners in the play are unable to determine their own life, to lead to certain results. In summary, the leader, at its birth in the midst of the struggle between the English Parliament and the royal family, was a simple reference to an actual person who leads. Later on the leader became associated with exercising power and uniqueness, considered to possess mystical elements that made him special. Also, it is noteworthy that the leader was described not by his traits or behaviours, but by his actions and aura, both of which are hardly analyzable in a scientific manner, but establish him as almost a mythological heroic figure.
The transition from the old to the modern definition of the leader, then, occurred in the early twentieth century. Whereas the leader referred to the person who leads with special power and a mystical status prior to its modern conceptualization, and thus was simple, the industrialization and the development of business literature rendered leader an enactment of an abstract, notional unity of personal qualities, namely leadership, which was a previously inexistent idea. The business literature attempted to scientifically analyze what the leader is and the means of producing leaders for works. Hence the leader and leadership became distinguished, the latter being the scientific anatomy of the leader, whose establishment was the precondition for the production of leaders by leadership educations in contemporary society.
The development of the contemporary concept of leader began in the early nineteenth century with the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution and the birth of corporations yielded “the professionalization of certain roles in society,” and, above all, “the professional role of leader.” “Individuals in all segments and at all levels must be prepared to exercise leaderlike initiative.” Workers were demanded to become leaders, for the increase of productivity in the rising decenrtalized modern industry. As this need for leader-like workers gradually accumulated, in Thesaurus Dictionary (1925), the synonyms for the expression “take the lead” and the word “leader” were “management” and “manager.” The leader was no longer the great man, but became a common man in small segments of the modern capitalist corporations, the notion whose dispersion was made possible by the industrial need for leaders and “the democratization of Western civilizations.” To meet this need, “the leadership theories [which] are all very management oriented” began to be formulated. The concept of the leader was reborn in its subjection to business, and born along was the new literature of leadership in the field of business studies, the attempt to scientifically analyze and codify the mystical and exceptional leader to produce common working leaders.
The consequence of this scientific dissection and codification of the leader by the leadership literature was that the concept of leadership was born. In 1828, the word leadership, which was previously never defined in a dictionary at least in Rost’s research, first appeared in a dictionary, which however had only a plain definition of “the state or condition of a leader.” It did not appear regularly in dictionaries, as the word was frequently omitted in most English dictionaries or was given only a very brief and simple definition that merely accounts for the meaning of the suffix –ship added after the word leader. Yet, in the twentieth century, with the birth of the leadership literature that analyzed the leader, the word leadership was given “a psychological definition,” for the leader became subjected to a scientific scrutiny and psychological anatomy by the leadership literature. Leadership, a collection of psychological and personal qualities of the leader, was thus born. Whereas the concept of leadership was inexistent before as the leader was deemed as a naturally exceptional and outstanding individual such that imitation is impossible, the modern concept of leadership, by a thorough anatomy of the leader, constructs a model of the leader with certain psychological configurations as a type that common workers are demanded to emulate.
The leadership literature which gave a birth to the new concept of leadership, though initially unscientific, commenced to formulate this scientific discourse of leadership. In the beginning of the leadership literature, during the 1920s, leadership was still considered “impressing the will of the leader on those led and inducing obedience, respect, loyalty, and cooperation,” as the leadership literature deemed “control and centralization of power” as the essential ability for workers in corporations. Furthermore, it “generated a mythological story of leadership” by simply adopting the predominant perception of the leader at the time. Yet, the view began to change a decade after the word leader acquired as its synonym “manager,” with the emphasis on the emotional and motivational relation that the leader establishes with others in work rather than the “great action” or “great power.” The leader became associated with efficiently inducing certain results, “emotional appeal,” “interaction between specific traits,” and control of “human energy.” This new conceptualization enabled the leader as a subject of scientific inquiries, for emotion, traits, behaviour, and relation are more observable and controllable than the ambiguous notion like power, though they yet operate clandestinely and naturally, and therefore very efficiently without being recognized in workplaces. Also such an anatomy enables the reproduction of leaders through education, aiming at the production of effective leader workers in corporations. The leadership literature thus dissected the leader and produced its psychological anatomy. Indeed, numerous works have been dedicated to the analysis and generalization of effective leadership, and in “modern psychohistory, there is still a search for psychoanalytical generalizations about leadership.” Thus, the great and mystical leader disappeared, and what it has been replaced by is a collection of traits that can be instilled in workers.
The will behind this new massive leadership literature was entirely the capitalistic drive that aimed at producing more efficient workers who can be dispersed throughout a decentralized, gigantic modern corporation. The contemporary obsession with leadership training in workplaces surely attests to this will. Moreover, this will is present not only in workplaces, but also in the education encompassing young students to mature adults who are required to continually internalize the traits of the leader desired by corporations. The aims of education are no longer only “instructing youth in religious doctrine” and “preparing them to live in a democracy,” but also “preparing workers for the industrialized 20th century workplace,” for students are required to possess these qualities and skills to participate in the community, which is capitalistic. This capitalist demand for leaders, the more effective type of workers, has become the necessity of the social life, accepted without doubt, and gradually forgotten. Thus the contemporary concept of the leader is dispersed, and it permeates into the social consciousness, secretly, clandestinely, and naturally.
What exactly, then, is the function of the leadership education? The leadership education aims at assisting corporations by producing “leaders,” whose qualities and behaviours are determined by the business literature dedicated to enhancing the efficiency of corporations. The leadership education applies the knowledge obtained from the psychological anatomy of the leader, and instills the qualities of the leader desired by corporations in workers and students who are encouraged to internalize those deeply personal traits.
The current leadership education aims at implanting certain qualities and behaviours that allow the complete subjugation of a person to working. The examination of the qualities generally associated with the leader in the classics of the leadership literature confirms this. The leaders “adopt[s] a personal and active attitude toward goals;” has an intense will and “humility” that never lets their “ego get in the way” of the “intense will” and “channels ambition into the company;” and has “a deeply embedded desire to achieve for the sake of achievement.” It must be noted that all these qualities and behaviours, and the others that are not mentioned but typically associated with the leader, are deeply personal qualities. The adaptation of these qualities requires a complete internal, psychological transformation, which leads to a fervent and active personal commitment to working for corporations. Whereas in the past workers were not required or expected to emotionally engage with work, now, they are demanded to dedicate all their passion and energy into it, be emotionally attached to it, and have strong motivation and desire to achieve the goal of their corporation. They are required no longer to simply perform a task, but to passionately aspire to do it. These qualities are implanted into workers and students through education for the production of effective contributors to corporations. Specifically, this leadership education aims at transforming workers and students into parts of corporations who are personally engaged with work, and whose passion and energy are wholly devoted to work, but not to their own ego; or, rather, it aims at altering their ego by that of the leader.
As a social paragon, the leader is now to be emulated, for the improvement of production and endless innovation by the leader born out of the sacrifice of workers’ self. This emulative practice of leadership is “reinforced by philosophies of capitalism, Protestantism, and personal achievement,” and “we continue to … celebrate heroes … and call them leader.” The concept of the leader has established itself as a social phenomenon, clandestinely disseminating and fulfilling the capitalistic will.
The Nietzschean genealogical analysis of the leader shows the transmutations and dissimulations the concept of the leader has undergone to take its modern shape. Moreover, it reveals the will behind the contemporary notion of the leader, and the difference between its modes of existence at different historical periods. In its origin, the leader was a simple designation. Then, it came to designate a personage with an exceptional aura, outstanding power, and authority, with an almost mystical status. The capitalist will, after the industrialization that requires “leaders” in decentralized segments of corporations, subjected the leader to a psychological anatomy, which enables the production of efficient leader workers. Finally, driven by the capitalist will, the phenomenon of the leader, socially dispersed and clandestinely instilled in workers and students through education, renders workers and students personally and internally devoted to the works of corporation, and replaces their ego with the paragon of the leader.
I do not claim, however, that I have substantiated a definitive genealogical conclusion by exhaustively examining all historical documents pertaining to the leader or the modern leadership literature. My investigation is schematic only. My ultimate aim in this paper was not to state a conclusive proposition, but to suggest a reasonable hypothesis that is worth exploring through a further genealogical research. Yet, I believe that a thorough genealogical examination of historical documents and etymology will confirm a conclusion similar to mine.
Also, I would like to note that the acquisition of an understanding of a truth or a social phenomenon does not complete the Nietzschean genealogy, for it is to be carried out not only with the aim of formulating an analysis, but moreover with the imperative that “the value of these values should itself, for once, be examined.” Thus the Nietzschean genealogy leaves us not only with the new insight into values, but moreover the ethical responsibility to evaluate them. A truly Nietzschean genealogist, then, would establish an emancipative will above the ruins of the capitalistic will about which he philosophized with a hammer.
 By “leader,” without an article “the,” I designate concrete individuals who are generally referred to by the word. By “the leader,” with an article “the,” I designate an abstracted notion of leader, leader as a form of an individual rather than specific personages. Where I refer to the word itself, I indicate it by adding “word” or “term” in front of it.
 John Gardner, On Leadership (New York: Free Press, 1990), Introduction 13.
 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings, ed. Raymond Geuss and Ronald Speirs, trans. Ronald Speirs (U.S.A.: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 143.
 Ibid., 146.
 Friedrich Nietzsche. On the Genealogy of Morality, ed. Keith Ansell-Pearson, trans. Carol Diethe (U.S.A.: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 51.
 Ibid., 12.
 Ibid., 11.
 Ibid., 12.
 Michel Foucault. The Foucault Reader, trans. and ed. Paul Rainbow (U.S.A.: Random House, 1984), 76-100.
 Ibid., 78.
 Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, ed. Maudemarie Clark and Brian Leiter, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 253.
 Foucault, The Foucault Reader, 83.
 Ibid., 76-100.
 Gardner, On Leadership, 2.
 OED Online (2nd ed., 1989), accessed October 2, 2003, http://www.oed.com, taken from Grace Miriam, “Origins of Leadership: The Etymology of Leadership,” 3, Paper presented at Conference of the International Leadership Association (2003), available at www.ila-net.org/publications/proceedings/2003/mgrace.
 Grace Miriam, “Origins of Leadership: The Etymology of Leadership,” 4, presented at Conference of the International Leadership Association (2003), available at www.ila-net.org/publications/proceedings/2003/mgrace.
 Joseph Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century (New York: Praeger, 1991), 38.
 Google Ngram, search input: Leader; smoothing 3, accessed July 24th, 2016, https://books.google.com/ngrams /graph?content=leader&year_start=1500&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cleader%3B%2Cc0.
 Samuel Johnso, A Dictionary of the English Language (London: Strahan, 1755), taken from Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century.
 William Perry, Royal Standard English Dictionary (Worcester, MA: Isaiah Thomas, 1788), taken from Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century.
 Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828; repr., New York: Johnson Reprint, 1970), taken from Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century.
 Miriam, “Origins of Leadership,” 9.
 Ibid., 4.
 Gardner, On Leadership, Introduction 8.
 F. A. March, and F.A. March Jr., Thesaurus Dictionary (Philadelphia: Historical, 1925), taken from Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century.
 Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century, 43.
 Ibid., 27.
 Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century, 40.
 Ibid., 39-41.
 Ibid., 41.
 Bernard Bass, and Ruth Bass, The Bass Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research, & Managerial Applications (New York: Free Press, 2008), 15.
 Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century, 47.
 Ibid., 8.
 O. Tead, The Art of Leadership (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1935), taken from Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century.
 G. U. Cleeton, and C. W. Mason, Executive ability: Its Discovery and Development (Yellow Springs, OH: Antioch Press, 1934), taken from Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century.
 E. S. Bogardus, Leaders and Leadership (New York: Appleton-Century, 1934), taken from Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century.
 P. Pigors, Leadership or Domination (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935), taken from Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century.
 Bass, Bernard, and Bass, Ruth. The Bass Handbook, 4.
 Willona Sloan, “What is the Purpose of Education?” Education Update 54, no. 7 (2012), http://www.ascd.org/pub lications/newsletters/education-update/jul12/vol54/num07/What-Is-the-Purpose-of-Education%C2%A2.aspx.
 Abraham Zalenznik, “Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?” Harvard Business Review, March-April (1992).
 Jim Collins, “Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve,” Harvard Business Review, July-August (2005).
Daniel Goleman, “What Makes a Leader?” Harvard Business Review, January (2004).
R.L. Henrickson, “Leadership and Culture,” Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, University of California San Diego (1989), taken from Miriam, “Origins of Leadership.”
 Nietzsche, Genealogy, 7.
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