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James MacGregor Burns (born August 3, 1918) is a presidential biographer, authority on Leadership Studies, Woodrow Wilson Professor (emeritus) of Political Science at Williams College, where he also received his B.A. He is also a scholar at the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership at the University of Maryland, College Park. He received a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1971 for his Roosevelt: Soldier of Freedom 1940-1945.

His key innovation in leadership theory was shifting away from studying the traits of great men and transactional management to focus on the interaction of leaders and led as collaborators working toward mutual benefit. He is best known for contributions to the Transformational, Aspirational and Visionary schools of leadership theory. Burns has advocated repeal of the 22nd amendment to allow effective presidents to have a third or fourth term of office.[1]

Excerpts from his book Leadership:

  • Leadership over human beings is exercised when persons with certain motives and purposes mobilize, in competition or conflict with others, institutional, political, psychological, and other resources so as to arouse, engage, and satisfy the motives of followers... in order to realize goals mutually held by both leaders and followers....
  • Transformational leadership occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality.
  • That people can be lifted into their better selves is the secret of transforming leadership and the moral and practical theme of this work.


  • Roosevelt: Soldier of Freedom 1940-1945, published with Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich in 1970 (ISBN 0-15-602757-7).
  • Transforming Leadership: The Pursuit of Happiness, published with Atlantic Monthly Press in 2003 (ISBN 0-87113-866-2).
  • The Three Roosevelts: Patrician Leaders Who Transformed America, with Susan Dunn, published with Grove Press in 2001 (ISBN 0-8021-3872-1).
  • Leadership, published with Harper Collins in 1978 (ISBN 0-06-010588-7).
  • Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox
  • John Kennedy: A Political Profile
  • Government by the People
  • Packing the Court: The Rise of Judicial Power and the Coming Crisis of the Supreme Court, published with Penguin Group in 2009 (ISBN 1594202192)


  1. ^ James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn (January 5, 2006). "No More Second-Term Blues". The New York Times: Op-Ed. Retrieved 2009-12-18. "Some defenders of the 22nd Amendment might argue that an incumbent second-term president would have an even more formidable and undeserved advantage in recognition, experience and the prestige of his office today than in the 1940's."  

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