Horace Mann: Enigmatic leader in change and conflict

Thomas Michael Buck, Marquette University


Current leadership literature often emphasizes the importance of character and consistency in leaders who must help others negotiate the challenges of change. Leadership theory further suggests that the ability to be a good leader can be learned and that the person equipped with the right information and skills can be a successful leader. The record of history shows that leaders often faced formidable challenges, especially during times of change. Even when leaders anticipated problems and engaged in thoughtful preparation, success was not guaranteed. Contemporary leaders can learn valuable lessons by reflecting on the activities of other leaders in different contexts. Horace Mann is the leader selected for study primarily because there is such an extensive supply of primary source material from which to gain an understanding of him as a person and as a leader during the pivotal time in which he served as Secretary of the Board of Education in Massachusetts. Remembering the current emphasis on the importance of character and consistency in leadership, the research question asked what the relationship was between Mann=s stated self-expression, based on his personal journal and other writings, and his actual behavior during two types of protracted conflict. Reasons were sought for any differences. Two areas of protracted conflict related to Mann=s goals were selected for close examination X the conflict over religion in the common schools and the conflict with the Boston schoolmasters. Essential primary documents related to the issues were included in the examination. Mann emerged as an enigma on the basis of his selection of and choices in these episodes of conflict and change. When he was not able to maintain his preferred persona it was often because of the behavior of his opponents. Useful lessons for current leaders can be gleaned from Mann=s experiences as described in the two areas of conflict.

Recommended Citation

Buck, Thomas Michael, "Horace Mann: Enigmatic leader in change and conflict" (1999). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9953486.