Document Type

Article - Open Access

Publication Title

International Review of Modern Sociology


International Journals

Publication Date

Fall 2013

Abstract/ Summary

The concept of a leader is one ofthe most fundamental to the study of collective behavior. It is also one of the most poorly theorized, primarily because social movement theorists continue to (1) assume that leaders must be affiliated with an organization and (2) argue over who "counts" as a leader. This paper offers two alternative approaches. I argue, first, that our current conceptualization must be broadened to include individuals who are unaffiliated with an organization. Second, I suggest that rather than debating who qualifies and does not qualify as a movement leader, we would do better to take an interpretive approach to the study of leadership; that is, we should treat as a leader any individual who is perceived as one- be it by the public, the media, politicians, or other movement participants. These two approaches will result in a much fuller theoretical picture of movement leaders.