Political Leadership for the New Century: Personality and Behavior among American Leaders

By Linda O. Valenty; Ofer Feldman | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

Political Leadership: Some Methodological Considerations

Betty Glad

TEXTBOOK “SCIENCE” AND THE STUDY OF POLITICAL LEADERSHIP

Classical political theorists and historians devoted considerable attention to issues of political leadership. The concerns of Plato and Aristotle were not only with how men come to power but with the goals that they follow once in office. Leadership was still a topic of central concern in the early modern period. But for Machiavelli in The Prince (1966), the focus shifted from what leaders ought to do to what they must do to secure and maintain themselves in power. Throughout the early twentieth century the study of the phenomenon of leadership flourished in several formats and disciplines. In 1930 Harold Lasswell (1930) called for studies of the motivations of political leaders, and in the 1950s and 1960s there were several important books along these lines. 1 In addition, the major management journals and those dealing with primate behavior carried many articles on leadership behavior. 2

Somewhat paradoxically, given this rich tradition and promising beginning, the study of political leadership in American political science journals has not flourished as one might have expected. The American Political Science Review published only 42 articles on the subject out of a total of 4,856 articles since its beginning in 1906. That is less than 1% of the total number of articles. Throughout this period of time there were no articles published dealing with the leadership practices of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, or Mao Zedong. 3 The neglect of leadership in much of mainstream political science is due, in part, to the desire, explicitly stated by several leading students

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