The possibilities of leadership: revisiting J.C. Rost's leadership writings

Mark Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the 90s, J.C. Rost highlighted the possibilities for leadership to become inclusive, participative, and socially responsible. He explicitly questioned the leadership para- digm of the previous two centuries encouraging a new paradigm for the twenty-first century. His contribution to leadership studies was recognized through the International Leadership Association’s lifetime achievement award in 2008. However, his work has largely been overlooked within management and organization studies and today’s dominant leadership paradigm remains largely unchanged from that of the previous century. In this paper, the major elements of Rost’s approach; influence relationships, real intended change, and mutual purpose and their implications for developing good leadership are revisited and explained. Rost was unable to shift the dominant leadership paradigm which he encountered, but he was able to highlight the possibilities of what leadership could become. Conclusions are drawn with regards to the enduring separation between leaders and followers, the vested interests of stake- holders in leadership and the influence of a mythical leadership narrative.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-373
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Resource Development International
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2016


  • Rost
  • leadership
  • leadership development
  • mutual purpose


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