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Leadership: Leaders, Followers, Environments by Art Padilla

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Is leadership neutral?

Moral discussion includes non-neutral word pairs like right/wrong, should/ought, and good/evil. Some authors argue convincingly that if it's unethical or immoral, it cannot by definition be leadership.34 It is something else. Whether it's called servant leadership, authentic leadership, or transformational leadership, many writers do not apply a neutral definition to leading and following.35

German Nazi ruler Adolf Hitler is typically the center of these discussions about morality, goodness, and leadership. A non-neutral, or perhaps a moralistic, perspective would conclude that Hitler was not a leader but rather a ruler or a dictator because he did not elevate his followers to a higher level.36 On the other hand, a more neutral (or less absolute) viewpoint might indicate that Hitler was a leader, albeit a very destructive one. First, he was popular enough to garner a considerable political following. Although Hitler never won a majority of popular votes in any election, his henchmen and acolytes persuaded Germany's President Hindenburg to appoint him legally as Chancellor of Germany in 1933. Second, his rhetoric inspired many Germans through the difficult years after World War I. He greatly expanded the Autobahn, albeit for his propaganda and military purposes, employing over 100,000 laborers during the Depression, and he asked Ferdinand Porsche to design the Volkswagen (even as he used Jewish slaves to manufacture the cars). Hitler's leadership outcomes ...

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