Theories of political leadership

Written by puriry makandi
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Theories of political leadership
Theories of political leadership try to explain different types of leaders. (The White House image by dwight9592 from

According to the Political Studies Association (PSA), leadership is a highly observed phenomenon globally. However, it is poorly understood, especially in Western liberal democracies. Leadership through political institutions has great effects on social systems. According to PSA, studies on contemporary political leadership have been observed to have a theoretical inclination on political factors such as political parties, national governments, supranational bodies, comparative studies, subnational and regional bodies.

Weber's Political Leadership Theory

According to Max Weber, leadership in a political system is spearheaded by three types of leaders: bureaucrats, charismatic leaders and traditional leaders. They operate under either a transactional or transformational political leadership model. According to Weber's political leadership theory, transactional political leaders use their knowledge or legal authority to achieve results. On the other hand, transformational leaders utilise their personal charisma to achieve their objectives.

George Burns' Political Leadership Theory

Burns' political leadership theory borrows heavily from Max Weber's theory. According to, Burns' theory borders on personal insights into how political leaders operate in different systems. While recognising transactional and transformational political leadership models, he added another paradigm, comprising of moral political leaders and amoral political leaders. According to Burns as quoted in, amoral political leaders are not regarded as true leaders.

Transactional Political Leaders

In addition to Weber's description of transactional leaders, Burns distinguished five categories of transactional political leaders. They include opinion political leaders, who have an ability to sway public opinion; political party leaders holding various positions in a given country; executive leaders, such as heads of state; bureaucratic leaders who occupy positions of political power; and legislative leaders who work behind scenes to shape political systems.

Transformational Political Leadership

According to Burns, transformational political leaders include political scholars who shape political societies through their clarity and vision on political affairs, reform political leaders who address issues of societal morality, revolutionary leaders who bring about rapid political transformations in societies and charismatic political leaders who utilise their personal charm to change political systems in societies.

Goleman's Political Leadership Theory

This theory was advanced by Daniel Goleman in 1995. The theory focuses on elements that make up the features of a political leader. It also places emphasis on behavioural approaches adopted by various political leaders. Goleman's theory was aimed at determining behavioural conduct by political leaders. The theory leans heavily on emotional intelligence, and among the aspects of emotional intelligence highlighted in Goleman's political leadership theory are self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy and motivation amongst political leaders.

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