Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Joseph C. Rost, PhD, Director; Mary Woods Scherr, PhD; Lee Gerlach, PhD


Leadership studies, perception, Western literature


The purpose of this study has been to seek out an active and influential pattern of human leadership in the pages of Western literature. Literature is a mirror of human perception and thought. It is a reflection of ideas, a means of transcribing not events as they have taken place, nor of human commentary of actual deeds, but of ideas and aspirations. As such, literature may be a more accurate reflection of the human mind than history or even philosophy. Therefore, if we are to acquire an understanding of this elusive concepts of leadership, it is necessary that we first arrive at a reasonable understanding of the ways in which leaders and their deeds have been represented in human letters over the centuries. The study has focused on nine major fictional works from the pages of Western literature: The Classical Period: The Iliad of Homer, The Odyssey of Homer, and Sophocles' Antigone. The Medieval Period: Beowulf and Le Mort D'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. The Renaissance Period: Shakespeare's Coriolanus and Henry V. The Modern Period: Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Sailor and Herman Hesse's The Glass Bead Game. It has been, for the most part, a study of relationships: between leaders and their followers; between leaders and their gods; and between leaders and heroes. Throughout, the study has attempted to determine whether or not there has been a conscious, coherent idea of leadership as a concept. Among the conclusions drawn are the following: (1) While the substance of leadership has not significantly changed in the course of 3000 years of Western literature, the leadership process has changed appreciably; (2) There are a number of points of commonalty held by effective leaders from ancient Greece to modern America; (3) The differences between leaders and heroes are greater than their similarities; (4) Writers of Western literature did not appear to be conscious of a concept of leadership prior to the 20th century.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access