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Leadership and the significance of formalized organizational structures: Crazy Horse vs Custer

Jan Gunter Langhof (Universität Liechtenstein, Vaduz, Liechtenstein)
Stefan Güldenberg (Universität Liechtenstein, Vaduz, Liechtenstein)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 30 April 2019

Issue publication date: 7 October 2019




Management literature commonly suggests authoritarian leadership (AL) as the ideal leadership style during crises and extreme situations. This study aims to question this view, exploring servant leadership (SL) as an alternative.


In the field of leadership research, surveys and interviews are the most dominant research methods. In light of this dominance, this paper draws on a rather unorthodox research approach: a historical examination.


The elaborations in this paper suggest that SL exerts a higher influence on followers than AL, when organizational structures are absent or disregarded. Consequently, the higher influence of SL implies a lower need for regulations and directives within organizations.

Practical implications

Bureaucracy and red tape can be reduced. Particularly in situations of crises, SL’s relatively reduced reliance on formalized organizational structures can be advantageous to leaders.


The relationship among leadership (SL and AL) and formalized organizational structures is elaborated and illustrated in a historical examination.



Langhof, J.G. and Güldenberg, S. (2019), "Leadership and the significance of formalized organizational structures: Crazy Horse vs Custer", Journal of Management History, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 341-363.



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