wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
search bar left
search bar right

James MacGregor Burns (1918-2014 )James MacGregor Burns


American leadership expert and military historian (pictured right).


Key book


Leadership (1978)


Transactional leaders exchange one thing for another with their followers (like money for effort).


But transforming leaders are the best. They are not manipulators but inspire people to achieve a common purpose through:


1. Satisfying their existing and potential needs


2. Learning, persuasion and mutual respect


3. Moral leadership

Morally uplifting (or “elevating” ) people through shared values, motives and objectives. 

Leaders must clarify their visionary objectives before they can expect people to achieve them.


4. Empowering people to:

  • make sacrifices.
  • accept beneficial changes (overcoming conflict and disagreement, which are inevitable, because leadership is  “dissensual”).
  • become leaders themselves.
  • maximize their potential (by raising their aspirations and satisfying their needs).

Leaders can't exist and are powerless without followers, because leadership is a collective relationship.


Key quotes on leadership

That people can be lifted into their better selves is the secret of transforming leadership.

Leadership mobilizes, naked power coerces.

Only by standing on their [followers’] shoulders can true greatness in leadership be achieved.

Leaders...do not shun conflict; they confront it, exploit it, ultimately embody it. 

The ultimate test of practical leadership is the realization of intended, real change that meets people’s enduring needs.

The function of leadership is to engage followers. 

Free Newsletter
Enter your name and e-mail address to receive our free newsletter with analysis of business issues and new business books