Michigan State University

MSU Author Spotlight: Russell E. Johnson

Benjamin Hall

“The massive amount of [leadership] literature and the diversity of theoretical approaches raise a compelling need for stocktaking…”

Leadership is a particularly popular topic due to rapidly changing societal phenomena. Whether in politics, business, or higher education, the evolution of leadership as a practice has been written about extensively.

In order to better understand the literature, MSU author Russell Johnson applied bibliometric analysis to a corpus of leadership research to quantitatively visualize the landscape and the evolution of the field. Using co-citation and co-occurrence analysis provided by CiteSpace, Johnson and colleagues created visualizations which provide a summary of 200 landmark leadership works and 13 major leadership theories. Russell’s research, published (2019) in The Leadership Quarterly, offers the following:

  • Future research agendas based on emerging trends in the literature, for example: Exploring “the relationship between transformational leadership and creativity or between ethical leadership and counterproductive work behavior.”
  • Journal co-citation network of leadership research during 1990-2017, including a visualization of the most co-cited journals.
  • A network visualization of major leadership constructs used in 200 landmark leadership documents, for example: “Several leadership styles (i.e., transformational leadership, transactional leadership, charismatic leadership, strategic leadership, and ethical leadership) are linked with each other and have close ties to trait theories…”
  • A visualization of leadership-related keywords during 1990-2017, for example: “Keywords with the highest co-occurrence frequency.”

Russell’s method of bibliographic mapping was applied to 6,528 articles from 10 influential leadership journals. For any scholar, at any stage of development, this review provides “a systematic understanding of the landscape and emerging trends in the literature.”

Russell Johnson is an Associate Professor of Management in the Eli Broad College of Business. Originally from Canada, Dr. Johnson’s research examines the roles of motivation, justice, and leadership-based processes that underlie work attitudes and behaviors.

Zhu, J., Song, L. J., Zhu, L., & Johnson, R. E. (2019). Visualizing the landscape and evolution of leadership research. The Leadership Quarterly, 30(2), 215-232.

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