Leadership scholar, presidential biographer, and Pulitzer Prize winner James MacGregor Burns rightly saw the need for a general theory. A general theory was not only needed for academic reasons, but to help prevent degradation, harm, and leadership failure. We have now what was called “an industry failure” (Kaiser & Curphy, 2013). We saw the levels of public trust decreased as spending increased. Burns said:

If we know all too much about our leaders, we know far too little about leadership. . . . Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth. . . . A recent study turned up 130 definitions of the word [leadership].  A superabundance of facts about leaders far outruns theories of leadership. . . . No central concept of leadership has yet emerged, in part because scholars have worked in separate disciplines and [sub-disciplines] in pursuit of different and often unrelated questions and problems.  I believe, however, that the richness of the research and analysis and thoughtful experience, accumulated especially in the past decade or so, enables us now to achieve an intellectual breakthrough. (Burns, 1978, pp. 1-2)

Anticipated a Leadership Breakthrough

A Breakthrough: Leadership’s Grand Theory