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What Do You Call A Scientist Who Studies Leadership?

2 Feb 2024 5:35 PM | Chris Fuzie (Administrator)

Leadership Scientists are Leaderologists!

Before we can understand what a leadership scientist is or does, we first have to understand exactly what a scientist is or does.  The term "scientist" traditionally refers to individuals who engage in the systematic study and inquiry of the natural world. However, the definition and scope of the term have evolved over time. While the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) remain a central focus, the term "scientist" has broadened to include those involved in social sciences, behavioral sciences, and other interdisciplinary fields.

In contemporary usage, scientists can work in various domains beyond the natural world. Social scientists, for example, study human behavior, societies, and cultures. Behavioral scientists may focus on psychology or neuroscience. Computer scientists and data scientists work in fields that are not necessarily confined to the natural world but involve systematic study and inquiry.

While the traditional image of a scientist often pertains to the natural world, the term has expanded to include professionals engaged in systematic inquiry across diverse fields, including those beyond the natural sciences.

Leadership Scientists…Really?

The term "leadership scientist" is not a standard or widely recognized title or role. However, it can be interpreted in different ways, and I'll offer a couple of potential interpretations:

Research on Leadership: A leadership scientist might be someone who conducts research on leadership styles, strategies, and effectiveness. This could involve studying various leadership models, analyzing successful leadership practices, and identifying factors that contribute to effective leadership in different contexts. The goal would be to contribute new insights and knowledge to the field of leadership studies.

Application of Scientific Principles to Leadership: A leadership scientist might also approach leadership from a scientific perspective, applying empirical methods, data analysis, and evidence-based approaches to understand and improve leadership practices. This could involve using scientific methods to assess the impact of leadership interventions, experimenting with different leadership styles, and continuously refining leadership strategies based on measurable outcomes.

In both interpretations, the key idea is combining leadership principles with scientific methods to either contribute to and/or advance the theoretical understanding of leadership or enhance the practical application of leadership in various settings.  

Such a role might not have a standardized definition, and its specific responsibilities would depend on the context and organization in which it is applied.  So, we must consider what it means to be professionals engaged in systematic inquiry.

What do we call people who study a specific subject?

The suffix "-ology" is derived from the Greek word "logia," which means "the study of" or "the science of." When attached to a word, it indicates a field of study or a branch of knowledge related to that particular subject. Many academic disciplines use this suffix to denote their area of expertise. For example:

  1. Biology: The study of living organisms.
  2. Geology: The study of the Earth and its structure, composition, and processes.
  3. Psychology: The study of the mind and behavior.
  4. Anthropology: The study of human societies, cultures, and their development.
  5. Sociology: The study of society and social behavior.
  6. Meteorology: The study of the atmosphere and weather patterns.
  7. Economics: The study of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

In each case, the "-ology" suffix signifies a systematic and scientific approach to understanding and exploring the respective subject matter.  The term used to describe people who study a particular field or subject ending in "-ology" is typically derived from the root word without the suffix. Here are a few examples:

  1. Biologist: Someone who studies biology.
  2. Geologist: Someone who studies geology.
  3. Psychologist: Someone who studies psychology.
  4. Anthropologist: Someone who studies anthropology.
  5. Sociologist: Someone who studies sociology.
  6. Meteorologist: Someone who studies meteorology.
  7. Economist: Someone who studies economics.

In general, the term for an individual who specializes in a specific field of study is often formed by adding the "-ist" suffix to the root of the word denoting that field. This suffix indicates a practitioner or expert in a particular discipline. If we follow the pattern of adding "-ist" to the root word, someone who studies "leaderology" is called a "leaderologist."

So, what is a leadership scientist?  A leaderologist!   What do leaderologists do?  A “Leaderologist” or leadership scientist is exploring the field of study known as "leadership science" or "leadership studies." In this area, researchers focus on understanding various aspects of leadership, including followership as a component of the leadership process, the traits and behaviors of effective leaders/followers, leadership/followership styles, organizational leadership, leadership development, and the impact of leadership on individuals and groups.

The study of leadership involves multidisciplinary perspectives, drawing on insights from psychology, sociology, management principles and practices, organizational behavior, and other related fields. Researchers in leadership science may conduct empirical studies, experiments, and observations to gain a deeper understanding of how leadership functions in different contexts or situations and its effects on individuals, teams, and organizations.

The goal of leaderology is to contribute evidence-based knowledge that can inform leadership practices in various settings, such as business, education, healthcare, and government.

 Why We Need to Use Leaderologists to Study and Teach Leadership

Using pseudo-scientists in leadership, individuals who may present themselves as scientists but lack genuine formal education and training, scientific expertise, or don’t adhere to scientific principles, as opposed to real leadership scientists (Leaderologists), can introduce several risks and challenges in organizational contexts:

  1. Ineffective Decision-Making: Pseudo-scientific approaches may lead to the adoption of leadership strategies and decision-making processes that lack a solid empirical foundation. This can result in ineffective or counterproductive leadership practices.
  2. Poor Organizational Performance: Leadership decisions based on pseudo-scientific principles may not align with evidence-based best practices. This misalignment can negatively impact organizational performance, employee morale, and overall success.
  3. Lack of Employee Trust: If leaders rely on pseudo-scientific claims, employees may question the credibility and competence of their leadership. This lack of trust can lead to decreased morale, engagement, and cooperation within the organization.
  4. Missed Opportunities for Improvement: Genuine leadership scientists focus on research and evidence-based practices that contribute to the understanding of effective leadership. By neglecting these insights and relying on pseudo-scientific approaches, organizations may miss opportunities to improve leadership effectiveness and employee well-being.
  5. Risk of Unethical Behavior: Pseudo-scientific leadership theories may lack ethical grounding, potentially leading to decisions and practices that are ethically questionable. This can harm the reputation of the organization and lead to legal and ethical challenges.
  6. Resistance to Change: Employees may resist changes implemented based on pseudo-scientific leadership concepts if they perceive them as lacking a solid foundation or not aligned with genuine scientific understanding.
  7. Waste of Resources: Investing time and resources in leadership approaches that lack empirical support can be inefficient and wasteful. Organizations may spend resources on initiatives that do not contribute to long-term success.

To mitigate these risks, organizations should prioritize evidence-based leadership practices, encourage ongoing professional development for leaders, and promote a culture of critical thinking.

Consulting reputable leadership scientists (Leaderologists) and incorporating their education, training and experiences, along with research into leadership training and decision-making processes can contribute to more effective and sustainable leadership within organizations.

About the Author:  Dr. Chris Fuzie is the owner of CMF Leadership Consulting and is currently the Business/HR Manager for a District Attorney’s office in California. Chris is a Leaderologist II and Vice President of the National Leaderology Association (NLA) who holds a Doctor of Education (Ed. D), M.A. and B.A. in Organizational Leadership, and has graduate certificates in Human Resources and Criminal Justice Education. Chris is a developer, trainer, consultant for leadership of public, private, profit, and non-profit organizations since 2010. Chris is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and a former National Instructor for the International Association of Chiefs of Police and California P.O.S.T. Courses. Chris is the author of "Because Why... Understanding Behavior in Exigencies." and of "S.C.O.R.E. Performance Counseling: Save the Relationship, Change the Behavior." Chris is honorably retired from the Modesto Police Department after 28 years of public service leading such teams as the Homicide Team, the Hostage Negotiations Team, the Street-Level Drug Team and the School Police Officer Team.

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