James MacGregor Burns’s Leadership is one of those marvelous books with the power to comfort and afflict simultaneously. It has had precisely that impact upon me as I have labored in the vineyards of the study of leadership: comforting me with its substance, analytical power, and moral compass; afflicting me with the central leadership issues it poses so well, yet leaves others tantalizingly unresolved. Much of my research in the field of leadership seeks to pursue the implications of these core issues: the role of values in leadership; the elusive concept and function of the common good; and, perhaps most important, how leadership can be conceived and implemented in a regime of popular sovereignty in such a manner that it responds to popular needs while avoiding popular passion. As I acknowledge my connections to Burns’s work and make clear my departures from it, I trust I will also show new possibilities for future research, yielding an enhanced understanding of the place and role of leadership in our political life and of the place of historical studies in understanding leadership.

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Copyright © 2007 University Press of America, Inc. This book chapter first appeared in Reflections on Leadership.

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