Document Type

Teacher Resource

Publication Date

Fall 2019


The Great Man Theory of leadership is centered around the ideas of prominent historians of the 19th century. The literature of the century, including Frederick Adam Woods’s book T he Influence of Monarchs: Steps in a New Science of History and many like it, analyze the influence of major rulers primarily in the Western world. The Great Man Theory thrives on the notion that most of history can be explained by the influence of male leadership figures. These men often appeared to rise to power out of nowhere and lead their people to success, and their “greatness” was often derived from military leadership. While they weren’t exactly sure what traits contributed to their success, scholars of the era attributed leadership to something inherent that Great Men were born with, thus founding the theory. Great Man Theory reigned as the most popular theory of explaining leadership well into the mid-20th century, supposedly explaining the influence of big names such as Abraham Lincoln, Julius Caesar, and Alexander the Great.



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