|Day D. V. , Antonakis J. (2013). The future of leadership. The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Leadership, Change, and Organizational Development (pp. 221-235). Leonard H. Skipton Lewis Rachel Freedman Arthur M. Passmore Jonathan, Oxford, UK: John Wiley & Sons. [doi] [abstract]|
The good news with regard to this (or any) chapter on the future of leadership is that there is one. There was a time when researchers called for a moratorium on new leadership theory and research (e.g., Miner, 1975) citing the uncertain future of the field. Then for a time there was a popular academic perspective that leadership did not really matter when it came to shaping organizational outcomes (Meindl & Ehrlich, 1987; Meindl, Ehrlich, & Dukerich, 1985; Pfeffer, 1977). That perspective was laid to rest by "realists" in the field (Day & Antonakis, 2012a) by means of empirical re-interpretation of the results used to support the position that leadership does not matter (Lieberson & O'Connor, 1972; Salancik & Pfeffer, 1977). Specifically, Day and Lord (1988) showed that when proper methodological concerns were addressed (e.g., controlling for industry and company size effects; incorporating appropriate time lags) that the impact of top-level leadership was considerable - explaining as much as 45% of the variance in measures of organizational performance. Despite some recent pessimistic sentiments about the "curiously unformed" state of leadership research and theory (Hackman & Wageman, 2007), others have argued that the field has continued to evolve and is potentially on the threshold of some significant breakthroughs (Day & Antonakis, 2012a).
Leadership scholars have been re-energized by new directions in the field and research efforts have revitalized areas previously abandoned for apparent lack of consistency in findings (e.g., leadership trait theory). Our accumulated knowledge now allows us to explain the nature of leadership including its biological bases and other antecedents, and consequences with some degree of confidence. There are other comprehensive sources that review the extensive theoretical and empirical foundation of leadership (Bass, 2008; Day & Antonakis, 2012b) so that will not be the focus of the present chapter. Instead, we will take a future-oriented perspective in identifying particular areas within the leadership field that we believe offer promising perspectives on the future of leadership.
Nonetheless, it is worthwhile as background to first provide an overview of how we see the leadership field changing over the past decade or so. This short chronicle will set the stage for a keener understanding of where the future contributions are likely to emerge. Overall, across nine major schools of leadership - trait, behavioural, contingency, contextual, relational, sceptics, information processing, New Leadership, biological and evolutionary - researchers have seen a resurgence in interest in one area, a high level of activity in at least four other areas, inactivity in three areas, and one that was modestly active in the previous decade but we think holds strong promise for the future (Gardner, Lowe, Moss, Mahoney, & Cogliser, 2010). We will next provide brief overviews of these nine schools and their respective levels of research activity (see Figure 1).