Essentials of Social Psychology

Chapter 10: Invention and Leadership (continued)

Emory S. Bogardus

Table of Contents | Next | Previous

2. The Social Psychology of Leadership. The leader is a social inventor. He is the chief factor in the invention-imitation process. Three important questions will be considered in this chapter. (I) What are the fundamental elements in leadership? (a) What are the principal types of leaders? (3) Under what conditions are geniuses matured?

Leadership arises from the self-assertive impulses of personality. It is a crystallization of self-initiative. Tendencies to think, to act, to achieve are basic to leadership. In a similar way the curiosity impulses and problem-solving impulses are fundamental.

Individuality produces leadership. Every person possesses by birth some characteristics which distinguish him from every one else. It is this margin of uniqueness which gives each individual a natural leadership advantage. When we describe a person as a round peg in a square hole, or as having missed his calling, we mean that he has ignored his margin of natural uniqueness. Vocational guidance partially depends upon discovering the individual's margin of variation. This margin gives every person a field of development and activity in which no one else can com-

(185) -pete with him. In this non-competitive phase of personality there is unlimited room for self-expression, invention, and leadership.

Out of this margin individuality develops. Uniqueness of inherited traits combined with uniqueness of experience spells individuality. Thus every person builds up a point of view which is distinctly his own, which sets him off from all his fellows, and which is the essence of originality.

A fine physique is essential for certain types of leadership and helpful in all. As a substitute for a tall stature, Napoleon appeared before his soldiers on a horse. E. B. Gowin found that the executives of insurance companies are taller in stature than the average person who holds an insurance policy, that bishops are taller than the rank and file of clergymen, university presidents than presidents of small colleges, city superintendents than principals in small towns, sales managers than salesmen, railroad presidents than station agents.[1] The group ranks a tall man superior to a short man, but the group judges unscientifically.

Physical energy and endurance are more important qualifications than height alone. They more than compensate for stature. In the long run they enable the individual to build a reputation and to make a record of achievement which are essential to permanent leadership.

Mental energy and endurance is a more consequen-

(186) -tial element in leadership than physical abilities. In the clash of mind with mind superior psychical qualities quickly assert themselves and win recognition. It is unfortunate, however, that countless persons sacrifice physical energy in securing a one-sided development of mentality. Pity rather than praise is justly accorded the college "grind," or the business man who sacrifices health for financial success. "I work fifteen hours a day," proudly asserts a professional leader, but later finds himself the victim of nervous and physical exhaustion and unable to enjoy the fruits of his achievements as a leader.

A still more important factor in leadership is focalization of psychic energy.' The genius is a person whose psychic energy is highly focalized. If the process has been carried out by nature, the product is the born-genius. If the focalization is done by the individual himself, the result is a genius by hard work and concentration. The first is a genius by inheritance; the second, by personal initiative. The born-genius has had the nature and type of the focalization of his psychic energy determined for him, for example, in the line of artistic or of mathematical ability. The genius by hard work chooses for himself the direction in which he shall focalize his energies—vocational counsellors have an important function to perform in the making of this type of genius. The persistent concentration of the attention of an ordinary person in one line of mental endeavor will give that individual the rank of a leader in that sphere.


Geniuses by virtue of deliberate focalization are far more numerous than born-geniuses. They are better balanced, more practical, but less brilliant and spectacular. They are the product of the individual's freedom of choice. If nature has not focalized one's psychic energy for him, he may do so for himself.

A genius is often a person "who takes infinite pains." Many a student deservedly ranks high, because of his capacity to work indefinitely— at the details of his tasks, while at the same time he gives proper attention to fundamentals. A former student of mine who is now a university professor would work incessantly in making accurate and illuminating charts and graphs to illustrate his papers in each of his classes. He continually did more than was required; he won promotion because he worked painstakingly.

Furthermore, a leader must be a "moral dynamo." He must command confidence and respect to a special degree. Ideally, he must be master of himself before he can maintain the esteem and especially the loyalty of others. To the extent that he does not possess supreme control of his own passions and desires he is handicapped in controlling other people. Oftentimes he must have moral courage to stand out from his fellows and even against them. He must not allow himself to be blown about or to run slavishly with the crowd and public opinion.

The successful leader must possess superior innate ability and faith in his own powers. He must not boast or swagger, but exhibit poise, indifference, and self-control under danger. By virtue of his exceptional ability, of his faith, and of his poise, he is some

(188) what inscrutable. It was the inscrutableness, for example, of Washington and Grant. which increased their leadership-prestige.

The leader is a seer. At least he sees clearly a few of the fundamental needs of his group. He sees through these problems to their solutions. He perceives what the times demand more clearly than do his fellows; he possesses more foresight than they. He is reasonable—socially reasonable. When he works through group problems adequately and practically, a position of leadership is assured him.

The leader is emanatory. He throws out one idea or suggestion after another. His followers turn to him for new ideas and proposals as plants turn toward the sun for light and heat. He sends out programs. Dr. Francis E. Clark, or "Father" Clark, the founder of the United Society of Christian Endeavor, announced a new two-year world program at each biennial convention. One program would not be carried out completely before another would be enunciated.

The leader possesses authority, either personal or civil. Personal authority springs from ability plus training. Civil authority comes from appointment or election to office, and carries with it the prestige of public position or rank. The inefficient may receive political preferment and occupy for a time a position of leadership. Both personal and civil authority may overbalance the individual and create an autocrat.

The ability to organize individuals often makes a leader. To arouse individuals in support of a new cause, formulate plans of organization, analyze the abilities of each individual, and see that each seeks and

(189) finds his proper place in the organized whole—these traits constitute leadership.

The leader must be worthy of obedience. Loyalty is at least one-half of all leadership-obedience phenomena. Obedience implies confidence in the purposes of the leader. A person with social purposes commands social power. In brief, leadership involves societary problems, concentrated attention upon these problems, trial and error methods, searching for correct solutions, and the discovery and the enacting of societary programs.

A leader drives or draws. In a military, autocratic country the former type predominates; in a democratic nation, the latter form receives recognition. Among semi-civilized tribes leaders are usually of the arbitrary type; among highly civilized Christian peoples, leaders develop the finer qualities of magnetism.

The autocratic leader is commonly a representative of a powerful organization. He personifies borrowed force, he frequently appropriates impersonal, arbitrary ways from the institution which fosters him. In a democracy autocrats are hated. If the leader shows by his speech and actions that he considers himself a social superior, he courts downfall. Discharged private soldiers are often heard to say: "I'm through with saluting officers." If pressed to explain their attitude, they commonly reply: "When we were overseas, our officers `rode' us." Ordinarily, autocracy has no place among the leaders in a democracy.

The magnetic leader, on the other hand, is characterized by his willingness to serve. He is human. He is of the herd and like a good shepherd. He must not

(190) get too far ahead of his group lest its members fail to recognize him and ignore him or even crucify him. If a leader sincerely and unostentatiously meets group needs, he will command not only the respect, but the love of his followers.

Leaders are primarily executive or intellectual. The difference is partly in heredity and partly in concentration of attention. The executive is characterized by greater physical force, "push," and energy, but by less breadth of knowledge and by less depth of theoretical thinking than the intellectual leader. He is usually in closer contact with people and community conditions, and is more red-blooded and aggressive. He generally commands the higher salary and receives recognition from society sooner than the leader in scientific, or literary thought. The intellectual leader works for ends that are farther removed, leads a less exhaustive life, enjoys greater freedom, and by later generations is often rated higher.

Leaders are either group manipulators, group representatives, group builders, or group originators.[3] The group manipulator is sensitive to group emotions and able to express in agreeable ways the desires of the people. Often by oratorical or spectacular methods, he obtains wide popularity, political preferment, or great wealth. As a rule he fails to give his constituents adequate returns for their investment in him. His objective is not their advantage but his own gain. He frequently leads his followers after false gods.


Having once gained the confidence of the group, he forces his will upon his victims. He often hypnotizes his constituents. In this class there is the advertiser who announces something which catches the fancy but possesses little utility or beauty, the seller of oil stock who makes dazzling forecasts, the ward boss who promises his listeners a new era of prosperity. The group manipulator takes note of the vague desires of the crowd, crystallizes these inchoate yearnings, and capitalizes them in terms of personal aggrandizement. He drives his subjects hither and yon at vital sacrifices to themselves and not infrequently to his own ultimate destruction. His strength is in his understanding of human nature and in his hypnotic influence. When these fail, he is lost. No leader can eventually succeed who smothers or stamps out the self-expression of the group members.

The group representative, while a personification of the unexpressed feelings as well as of the formulated opinions of his constituents, is also the spokesman of their will. A judge is a group representative. Under the pure democratic form of a republic, the legislator is expected to represent public opinion. In our country, we often fail to keep our legislators apprised concerning our attitudes even on fundamental issues —unless we represent professionally a special interest. As a result, legislators are continually subjected to the danger of degenerating into manipulators or "politicians."

The group builder, in the deepest sense of the term, tries to find out the best interests of his group and to lead accordingly. Selfish desires are taboo. The con-

(192) -cern of such a leader is entirely in the welfare of his fellows and in helping them to live and act together with increasing harmony, justice, and progress. He is willing to give up his life that the group may be saved. He determines the causes of social friction, injustice, or inertia, outlines steps of reconstruction, and pilots the way. The group builder works through all the good will that he can summon. He organizes social good will within his group and harmonizes antagonistic attitudes wherever possible without sacrificing societary principles. If he must antagonize, he proceeds in a social spirit and wherever feasible substitutes understanding for ignorance, good will for ill, and organization for chaotic strife. He does not try to conquer, for conquering, per se, fails to win respect and love, and leads to the dangerous desire for further conquering. The group builder tries to discover what is harmonious, just, and constructive for his group, and then endeavors to weave these ideals into the life of his group.

The group originator is first possessed by a great idea. From that basis he proceeds to the winning of individuals to the acceptance of that idea. He may press forward through organized effort—the common method today—or by unorganized activities, as in the case of the Founder of Christianity. He aims to create leaders, to stimulate the spirit of leadership in conjunction with the spirit of obedience in every individual, and to provide for the largest and richest development of personalities.

Special talent and genius produce leaders in all fields, but what are the conditions under which these

(193) qualities mature? The biologists have not yet given a satisfactory explanation of the appearance of special talent and of genius. The fundamental causes are not known. Special ability is as likely, or almost as likely, to appear in a child who is born in a tenement as in one who is born in a mansion.

The appearance of special ability is not confined to one sex. Historically, woman did not have opportunity to translate her latent talent into achievement, and hence it is not known how ,much ability woman possesses. In recent decades, however, in our country, woman has been forging ahead rapidly and availing herself of increasing opportunities—a tendency which presages a greatly augmented degree of leadership on her part. In competing with men in nearly all lines of human endeavor she is demonstrating her versatile abilities. In the public schools today girls remain long after boys become uneasy and leave. As a class, women are availing themselves of a more liberal education than are men. Since a liberal education is basic to societary leadership. Women may attain the controlling positions in forming public opinion and hence of determining the nature of social progress.

It is generally admitted—a point of vast significance —that more geniuses are born than ever attain prominence. The belief of Galton that every genius will overcome his environment and push his way through to eminence [4] is ill founded. Disease, poverty, immoral conduct and similar factors prevent potential geniuses from reaching the maturity of their powers and even cause their deaths in adolescence or child-

(194) -hood. The contention of Lombroso that the genius is a pathological phenomenon, to be treated as a mental degenerate, or even as an insane person,[5] finds support in many instances, but as a rule is manifestly without scientific standing. The strength of the argument lies in the fact that genius often represents such a high degree of focalization of psychic energy in some one direction that the individual may easily become unbalanced.

If we grant that far more geniuses are born than become eminent, we must learn the causes of this social loss. The heart of the matter is found in the answer to the question: What are the necessary conditions for the maturing of genius? Odin,[6] a French writer of the nineteenth century, Lester F. Ward,[7] and recently, G. R. Davies[8] have discussed with increasing scientific accuracy the decisive factors in transforming inherited talent and special ability into actual achievement. A study of the facts shows five fundamental conditions. (1) A social environment which is mentally stimulating is necessary. Genius cannot mature under a widespread spell of mental stagnation. There must be mental contacts which strike fire and some general appreciation of the achievements that a genius can effect.

(2) As a rule, thorough training is necessary. There are few successes today that do not rest upon a complete mastery of the given fields. It is becoming increasingly true that special ability must have a com-

(195) -mensurate scholastic and practical training as a basis for complete self-expression. The greater the potential ability the more valuable an extensive and intensive training. The education of the individual must begin early in life, proceed systematically, and be prolonged in order that all the potential qualities may be fully and permanently developed.

(3) There must be freedom from the struggle for bread. If energy is continually expended in securing the necessities of life, genius is hampered. There must be sufficient means, as a rule, to provide opportunities of travel and research. The individual must be free to provide himself with the best tools and to furnish himself with the best equipment that is available—or else fall below his largest possibilities.

(4) Genius must occupy a position of self-respect and of social respect. A genius is handicapped if he grows up in a neighborhood of vile associates, as a member of a despised race, or where luxury spreads an enervating virus.

(5) If genius is not socialized, it may be wasted in anarchistic or anti-social directions. A large amount of special ability is squandered simply because it works at cross purposes with fundamental social processes.

In summing up the discussion on genius it should be said that genius tends to create its own opportunities, but that it often fails. An unenlightened environment often fails to give ability encouragement or even recognition, and it dies out unrecognized by even its possessor. The impingement of the economic and social environment often crushes out genius. It has been estimated that for every genius among the poorer

(196) classes who attains prominence, 99 remain potential or are early crushed out. Society must come to the rescue. Complete education of the poorer classes will create more opportunities for development of talent and genius than these traits can make for themselves.

In this connection vocational guidance has functions of the greatest importance. It must develop methods for detecting geniuses and persons who are capable of becoming geniuses by hard work. A still more important function is to diagnose adolescents and encourage them to enter lines of activity, not primarily where they can earn the most money, but where they can best express their whole personalities. From the development of a rich personality arises the deepest joys of life and the greatest opportunities for societary leadership.

The summary concerning genius involves certain conclusions regarding the larger field of leadership. In times of social change, unrest, and transition, leadership is at a premium. In periods of grave social disturbance and distress, the autocratic leader is the hero; in the decades of gradual social evolution, the magnetic leader is the effective director of human events. Since much of the history of the world has been marked by social upheaval and since the world loves the heroic and the spectacular, the hero type of leadership has been exalted and the quiet, pervasive, and magnetic type underrated. Under all conditions the social problem-solver becomes the effective leader, and the world's problem-solvers become the world's leaders. Society, on the other hand, must provide society-wide education and other favoring ad-

(197) -vantages in order that problem-solving ability rnay have ample opportunities for unfolding. The world's problem-solvers who succeed furthest in turning achievement into human improvement and who are the most successful in stimulating the socialized creative spirit and in enriching the quality of personalities are the world's Greatest leaders.


1. Whom do you consider the Greatest leader in the United States today?

2. What is meant by individual ascendancy as opposed to social ascendancy?

3. Is "the proverbial individualism of the farmer" the same as individuality and potential leadership?

4. Why are we blind to the extent of our indebtedness to society and "therefore apt to imagine our individuality much more pronounced than it actually is"?

5. When is one's personality at its lowest ebb ?

6. Are leaders egotists?

7. Explain: Be your own Thomas A. Edison.

8. Illustrate: A leader represents a focalization of psychic energy.

9. Explain: It is the work of a leader "to pull triggers in the minds of his followers."

10. Are boys who are reared in wealthy homes, or iii poor homes, the more likely to become good leader?

11. Should a leader draw or drive people?


12. Does progress in social stability "lessen the hero values of the leader, and exalt his directive capacity" ?

13. Who is the better leader, lie who presents fully developed programs to the people, or he who stimulates the people to suggest and develop programs themselves ?

14. Can a student do closely assigned and mapped-out work in several college classes, and at the same time develop qualities of leadership?

15. Should an elected leader of the people really represent the wishes of his constituents, or should he exercise his own judgment?

16. Is the control of patronage a source of strength to a statesman?

17. Should a general go to the front when technically he can direct the fighting better from the distant headquarters?

18. How can a leader of splendid ability but of immoral habits be prevented from demoralizing the group?

19. Why does leadership assume maximum importance in times of transition?

20. What are the basic qualities of a successful public speaker?

21. What are the characteristics of a successful advertiser?

22. How may a successful advertiser be a dangerous member of society?

23. What are they differences between convincing an individual in the classroom and convincing him when he is a member of a crowd ?


24. What are the characteristics of a successful yell leader?

25. Why do the sons of leaders such as self-made men, rarely show the qualities of leadership which their fathers manifested?

26. Why is the term, "self-made" man, erroneous

27. Have "all advances in civilization" been due to leaders?

28. Would you say that "the obtrusiveness of personality and temperament in literature, painting, and music is a sign of advancement or a mark of backwardness"?

29. Should leadership in the family be centered in one person, or should the leadership be divided?

30. Do women generally vote as their husbands indicate or do they exercise independent judgment?

31. Are the rural or the urban communities in the United States in the greater need of leadership?

32. Why are some of the world's most valuable leaders unpopular?

33. When should a leader be an agitator; when, a compromiser; and when, a "standpatter" ?

34. In what ways can you distinguish between a demagogue and a statesman?

35. Would a course in the Social Psychology ref Leadership have a useful place in the college curriculum ?


Baldwin, J. M., Social and Ethical Interpretations, Ch. V.
——, The Individual and Society, Chs. I, V.

Brent, C. H., Leadership.


Bruce, H. A., Psychology and Parenthood, Ch. III.

Bristol, L. M., Social Adaptation, Chs. XII, XIII.

Bryce, James, The American Commonwealth, (revised edit., 1915), Vol. II, Ch. LXXIV.

Carlyle, Thomas, Heroes and Hero Worship, Lect. 1.

Cooley, C. H., Human Nature and the Social Order, Ch. IV
——,  Social Organisation,
Chs. XXIII, XXIV. Social Process, Ch. VI.
——, "Genius, Fame, and the Comparison of Races," Annals of the Amer. Acad., IX: 317-58.

Davies, G. R., Social Environment, Ch. IV.

Davis, Jr., M. M., Psychological Interpretations of Society. C!:. XV.

Fiske, John, "Sociology and Hero-Worship," Atlantic Mon., XLVII : 75-84.

Galton, Francis, Hereditary Genius.

Gowin, E. B., The Executive and His Control of Men.

Howard, G. E., Social Psychology, (syllabus), Sect. XX.

James, William, The Will to Believe, pp. 216-51.
——, "Great Men, Great Thoughts, and the Environment," Atlantic Mon., XLVI:441-59.

Joly, Henri, Psychologie des grands hommes.

Knowlson, T. S., Originality.

Le Bon, Gustave, The Crowd, Ch. III.

Leopold, Lewis, Prestige.

Mason, O. T., Origins of Invention, Ch. I.

Mumford, Eben, "The Origins of Leadership," Amer. Jour. of Sociol., XII:216-40, 367-97, 500-31.

Nisbet, J. F., The Insanity of Genius.

Odin, Alfred, Genèse des grands hommes, Tome I.

Robertson, J. M., "The Economics of Genius." Forum, XXV: 178-90.

Ross, E. A., Social Control, Ch. XXI.
——, Social Psychology, pp. 30-34.

Tagore, Rabindranath, Personality.

Tarde, Gabriel, La logique sociale, Ch. IV.

Terman, T. M., "The Psychology and Pedagogy of Leadership," Pedagog. Sem., XI: 113-51.

Todd, A. J., Theories of Social Progress, Chs. XXVI, XXVII.

Ward, L. F., The Psychic Factors in Civilization Chs. XXIX—XXXI.
——, Pure Sociology, Chs. XVIII, XIX.
——, Applied Sociology,
Part II.

Webster, Hutton, "Primitive Individual Ascendancy," Publications of the Amer. Sociological Society, XII: 46-60.


  1. These leaders also weigh more than average individuals, but they are undoubtedly better fed and better cared for physicallycircumstances which partially explain the greater weight, and are a result as well as a cause. Cf. E. B. Gowin, The Executive and His Control of Men, which contains a large amount of data upon leadership of the executive type.
  2. A term used by Lester F. Ward, Pure Sociology, p. 36. Cf. Ch. XVIII of Pure Sociology.
  3. The classificaton of leaders which is given by Martin Conway in The Crowd in Peace and War, Chapters VI-VIII, unduly expands the crowd concept, and at the same time inadequately provides for genuine group builders and originators.
  4. Hereditary Genius.
  5. The Man of Genius.
  6. Genèse des grands hommes.
  7. Applied Sociology, Part II.
  8. Social Environment, Ch. IV.

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2