Most leadership theories view leaders’ influence as stemming from their traits or behaviors. We suggest that the field of leadership studies has overlooked another potentially important source of the leader’s influence, namely his or her life- story. We argue that the leader’s life-story is an important source of information from which followers and potential followers learn about the leader’s traits and behav- iors, that the leader’s life story provides the leader with a self-concept from which he or she can lead, and that telling the life story or parts of it is an important leader- ship behavior. As an example of the life-story approach, we present a study of leader- ship development themes appearing in leaders’life stories. We conclude by proposing that a biographical and narrative approach to leadership studies should complement the currently dominant emphasis on leadership styles, and by suggesting some research directions that stem from this approach.
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