Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Steven A. Gelb, PhD, Director; Bill Piland, PhD; Mary Jo Abascal-Hildebrand, EdD


cultural critique, historical critique, Leadership studies, Neo-Romanticism, Romanticism


Romanticism, a cultural and intellectual ideology of the late 18th and early 19th century, left a historical legacy of ecstasy and disaster upon subsequent generations. Manifestations of neo-romanticism are evident in many areas of contemporary culture. These modern manifestations, which include an infusion of the spiritual into everyday life, pantheistic adoration of nature, glorification of the self, fascination with the irrational, focus on the power of the imagination, subjugation of the individual to the common good, and apocalyptic hope for a new world, are influencing, theories and practices of leadership. This research set out to find out whether leadership studies was benefitting from these neo-romantic influences, through the use of historical and cultural criticism. The historical roots of romanticism were identified for each theme and the historical path of that particular idea traced to the present day. The current manifestation of each idea was then examined in light of its interpretation and use within the field of leadership studies. For example, the Romantic focus on the immanence of God has evolved into a contemporary tendency to find spirituality infused in all aspects of the world. Leadership scholars have been exploring spirituality as an essential part of leadership. The romantic pantheistic focus on nature has translated into the tendency for leadership authors to appeal to "new science" ideas for support of their theories. Finally, each romantic idea was evaluated for its impact on current views of leadership. The application of neo-romantic ideas to the field of leadership studies was shown to be problematic. The leadership literature is jargon-infested, lacks clear definitions, purports to be science but is pseudoscientific, promotes one totalizing worldview, uncritically assumes that worldview is correct, covertly and manipulatively attempts to convert others to that worldview, suppresses the individual, violates personal rights and religious freedom, idolizes the group and by proscribing dissent, establishes a culture predisposed to fascist and totalitarian behavior. The author made recommendations for minimizing the negative impact of neo-romanticism on the field of leadership studies and provided some practical recommendations for leadership studies in the future. The findings of this study suggest that the field of leadership studies would do well to abandon romantic conceptions of leadership and engage in more rigorous and disciplined scholarly inquiry.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access