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Institutional and anthropological theories of leadership: Bridging a gap of 40 years, The


  • Caparas, Victoria

    (University of Asia & the Pacific, Manila)

  • Chinchilla, Nuria

    () (IESE Business School)


The paper explores the similarities and differences between Selznick's institutional leadership theory and Pérez López's anthropological leadership model, while underscoring the significance of their thought to contemporary research questions in mainstream leadership studies. The paper is divided into three major parts: The first part highlights the institutional theory of leadership of Philip Selznick, a renowned sociologist whose works have had a lasting impact on organizational studies, as is evidenced by the continued allusions to his seminal ideas on institutionalism and leadership. Selznick's leadership theory postulates leadership as a managerial function to defend institutional integrity. His theory's assumptions (time, space and values) are compared and contrasted with various leadership schools, such as the trait approach, the leadership style paradigm, situational relativity thinking and transformational or charismatic leadership research. The consequences of Selznick's lack of clarity in the concept of «values» is explored. The second part introduces the anthropological theory of leadership of Pérez López and highlights its principal ideas. Pérez López defines the organization as an institution that coordinates human actions as a means to satisfy three types of human needs- material, cognitive and affective. The institution will aim to give meaning to all human activities. It will be concerned not only with what is done and how it is done but also with why it is done. In this regard, the manager as the leader will work to improve his subordinates' evaluative knowledge. He will help his subordinates to find the real value of what they are doing, to evaluate the effects of their actions on other people, and to elevate their motives so that they learn to act moved by transcendent motives. In this way, the manager as a leader improves the organization's unity. The third part evaluates how Pérez López learned from the strengths and weaknesses of his predecessor's valuable insights. It is shown how Pérez López expounds on the institutional perspective of organizations using a framework of human motivations, and how he gives more clarity to the nature of and relationships between institutions, values and leadership. The complementarity between Pérez López and Selznick is found precisely in the level of analysis: the former goes deeper than the latter into the core of organizational actions -the internal states and processes of individual persons. The paper ends by recommending the empirical testing of the anthropological theory of leadership.

Suggested Citation

  • Caparas, Victoria & Chinchilla, Nuria, 2000. "Institutional and anthropological theories of leadership: Bridging a gap of 40 years, The," IESE Research Papers D/407, IESE Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:ebg:iesewp:d-0407

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    anthropological theories; leadership;

    JEL classification:

    • L20 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - General


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