Leadership science beyond questionnaires

Thomas Fischer, Donald C. Hambrick, Gwendolin B. Sajons, Niels Van Quaquebeke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Our field has lost its way. Leadership is what people do in order to influence others so that the others can and will contribute to the objectives of the collective. And yet, when looking at recent leadership research, the “what people do” – the behavioral elements as shown in true actions and choices – are almost completely absent. They have been replaced by evaluative surveys that tend to have tenuous links to reality and correspondingly limited policy implications. If our discipline is to advance as a science and achieve impact, we need to move beyond the ritualized use of questionnaires and become true behavioral scientists, with behaviors as the fundamental units of our understanding. Against this background, in this editorial we discuss the theoretical, operational, and empirical limitations of questionnaires for studying leadership. We then highlight examples of how researchers can better measure leadership as behaviors, as well as antecedents and consequences of those behaviors. We synthesize the discussion and offer concrete recommendations to help our discipline become what it is supposed to be: A science that people look to in order to find actionable guidance for improving their leadership.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101752
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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