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17 Incredible James MacGregor Burns Quotes

James MacGregor Burns was a Pulitzer Prize winner and American historian that was known for his authority and foundation of leadership studies. Focusing on the relationships of transactional and transformational leadership, Burns authored more than 20 books before his death in 2014. Here is a look at some of the most notable James MacGregor Burns quotes ever recorded.

“A revolution is an act of violence whereby one class shatters the authority of another.”

“Divorced from ethics, leadership is reduced to management and politics to mere technique.”

“If we are to turn the founders upside down we must directly confront the Constitutional structure they erected.”

“In real life, the most practical advice for leaders is not to treat pawns like pawns, nor princes like princes, but all persons like persons.”

“Leaders are not pale reflectors of major social conflicts; they play up some, play down others, ignore still others.”

“Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth.”

“Leadership, in short, is power governed by principle, directed toward raising people to their highest levels of personal motive and social morality.”

“Let us face reality. The framers (of the Constitution) have simply been too shrewd for us. They have outwitted us. They designed separate institutions that cannot be unified by mechanical linkages frail bridges(or) tinkering.”

“Politics seemed to have fallen to a new wartime low of spite and pettiness.”

“Such leadership occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality.”

“The practice of leadership is not the same as the exercise of power.”

“The ultimate test of practical leadership is the realization of intended, real change that meets people’s enduring needs.”

“There is an important difference between the politician who is simply an able tactician, and the politician who is a creative political.”

“They help students define moral values not by imposing their own moralities on them but by positing situations that pose hard moral choices and then encouraging conflict and debate.”

“Those who remember only that the Roosevelts served hot dogs to the royals will be fascinated by this well-researched account of an historic and ennobling relationship – a great story.”

“To elevate the goals of humankind, to achieve high moral purpose, to realize major intended change, leaders must thrust themselves into the most intractable processes and structures of history and ultimately master them.”

“Woodrow Wilson called for leaders who, by boldly interpreting the nation’s conscience, could lift a people out of their everyday selves. That people can be lifted into their better selves is the secret of transforming leadership.”

James MacGregor Burns takes some time to discuss his thoughts on leadership and what drew his interest to this field of study as a leadership scholar.

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