In honor of the challenge of James MacGregor Burns’ life work, the beautiful new Presidential Library for George Washington, The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, is hosting a two-day conference on Burns and his contribution to Leadership Studies. The conference will feature former students, colleagues, and mentees of Burns and will focus on the scholarship and legacy of one of the most influential thinkers on leadership.



$200 includes Thursday and Friday evening cocktail receptions, Friday lunch, and transportation to and from conference hotels. Additional meal and tour options available for purchase during online registration.


As the “father of leadership studies,” James MacGregor Burns demonstrated that our own past provides an inexhaustible storehouse of powerful lessons. Through the study and examination of centuries of world leaders, including George Washington, Burns transformed how we think about the problem of leadership. From a focus on the personal qualities of individual leaders, to a broader consideration of how change happens, Burns understood leadership to be a moral imperative. As he wrote “the task of leadership is accomplish some change in the world,” and the study of leadership entailed understanding the profound desire of human beings to satisfy “the opportunity to pursue happiness.”

Featured Presenters

Michael Beschloss

Award-winning historian
Emmy-winning contributor to NBC News and the PBS NewsHour

Joanne B. Ciulla, Ph.D.

Founding faculty member, University of Richmond Jepson School of Leadership Studies
Author on leadership and ethics

Tom Cronin, Ph.D.

McHugh Professor of American Institutions and Leadership at Colorado College, Author and co-author of several best-selling text-books on American government and the American presidency

Susan Dunn, Ph.D.

Preston Parish Third Century Professor of Humanities at Williams College
Faculty, Leadership Studies Program 
Author of several critically acclaimed books on Franklin D. Roosevelt and the founding era

George Goethals, Ph.D.

Faculty member in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond
Noted scholar and author of several books on leadership and heroic leadership

Gill Robinson Hickman, Ph.D.

Professor emerita in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond
Author of many scholarly articles and books on leadership and change

Ed Larson, Ph.D.

Pulitzer Prize winning author on history, politics, and law
Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair for Pepperdine University’s School of Law
Inaugural Fellow for The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington

Georgia Sorenson, Ph.D.

Founder and Director James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, University of Maryland, College Park
Prolific author and scholar on leadership

Richard A. Couto, Ph.D.

Senior Scholar at Union Institute and University, Founding faculty member of the Antioch University PhD Program in Leadership and Change, Award-winning author on community leadership and social change.

James MacGregor Burns

Photo courtesy Williams College

James MacGregor Burns was a Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential biographer and a pioneer in the study of leadership. Author of more than two dozen books, Burns devoted his professional life to the study of leadership in its various forms. In 1971, Burns won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for his biography, Roosevelt: Soldier of Freedom (1970). He also authored the acclaimed Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox.

His book, Leadership, published in 1978, is still considered the seminal work in the field of leadership studies. His theory of transactional and transformational leadership has been the basis of more than 400 doctoral dissertations.

Burns received his B.A. from Williams College, his Ph.D. in political science from Harvard, and he attended the London School of Economics. He was the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Government Emeritus at Williams College and served as Distinguished Leadership Scholar at the Academy of Leadership, which bears his name, at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he served as past president of the American Political Science Association and also of the International Society of Political Psychology. (Courtesy Williams College Political Science)

Online Registration

Registration includes includes Thursday evening cocktail reception, Friday lunch, and transportation to and from conference hotels. Additional meal and tour options available for purchase during online registration.

Register Now

Why Mount Vernon?

James MacGregor Burns once shared that, “the causality of leadership is, to me, the most crucial question and I think we can find answers to it in history, political science, economics, sociology, and the other disciplines”. Mount Vernon is an iconic American landmark - an enduring reminder of the life and legacy of the Father of Our Country and one of its greatest leaders. Having visited the estate several times, as well as co-authoring George Washington with Susan Dunn, Mount Vernon not only serves as an ideal location to honor Dr. Burns, but also serves as a springboard for future leadership scholarship for generations to come.

Learn More About Our Mission

Scholarships Available for Graduate and Undergraduate Students

The Fred W Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington is offering an exclusive opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students to network and learn from some of the most prominent scholars in the fields of leadership studies, political leadership, and political science.

Scholarship Details
The scholarship will cover the full amount of registration.  This includes two receptions and lunch on Friday, April 10. Additional items such as the optional dinner and tours on Thursday, April 9 are not included. 

To Apply
E-mail Sean Thomas, Director of Leadership Programs, at  Include your name, institution, degree program, and contact information in your e-mail.  You will be notified by e-mail if you are a recipient of a scholarship. Scholarship requests must be received by Monday, April 6.

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