Leadership- Part 1: Why do people want a leader?

Today, I will begin a 3 part series on the subject of Leadership, the first part will cover Freud’s (1921) finding on what people look for in a leader, the second part will cover Edwin A. Locke’s (1997)’s typology of a good leader, finally, the last part will be looking at Kousez & Polsner’s (2002) theory on implicit quality of a good leader.

At the end of each post, I’ll include a mini-exercise to practice what has been taught. What I hope for people to get out of these lessons is for people to prepare themselves for future leadership or enhance their current leadership.

Freud has identified 3 reasons why people desire for a leader:

1. Paternal/Maternal Figure

People have a tendency to look for someone who can take care of them.  As for leaders, people assume they are able to protect them. We can see examples from both fictional and real life figures. If we look at papacy, during medieval times, the pope controlled the power of faith but also acted as a charitable protector of the civil affairs.

Professor Albus Dumbledore not only was the principal of Hogwartz, but he also acted as the father figure of Harry Potter. In turn, Harry became the leader of a secret organisation called the Order of the Pheonix where he acted as a father figure/mentor for other students.

2. Representation

Likes attract, people tend to choose someone who can represent them to be their leader. Which is self evident as we tend to vote for someone who held similar views as us, it becomes a self-serving to elect someone who will further promote our ideas.

Well, isn’t it why I have voted for David Seymour in 2014?

3. Bonding

People look for someone who relates to them, it can be anything from shared interests to shared concerns. If we take a look at Margaret Thatcher, she took a pragmatist point of view during her political career, she knew what changes needed to be made to Britain and she focused on the issues which would transform Britain.

She stood by her principals but was also flexible to accept new ideas. For instance, she initially supported the environmental policies [1] but later on changed her views as she learned more. [2] She gained her support by being herself.


Select 3 examples of leaders who can fulfill the above reasons to be a leader and write down why you selected them.


3 thoughts on “Leadership- Part 1: Why do people want a leader?

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