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The Myth of the Strong Leader

Archie Brown challenges the widespread belief that 'strong leaders', dominate individual wielders of power, are the most successful and admirable. Within authoritarian regimes, a collective leadership is a lesser evil compared with a personal dictatorship. Within democracies, although strong leaders are seldom as strong or independent as they purport to be, the idea that just one person is entitled to take the big decisions is harmful and should be resisted. Examining Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mikhail Gorbachev, Deng Xiaoping and Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair amongst many others, this landmark study pinpoints different types and qualities of leadership. Overturning the popular notion of the strong leader, it makes us rethink preconcpetions about what it means to lead.
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An authoritative survey of political leadership over the last hundred years - from Churchill and Roosevelt to Stalin and Hitler, from Willy Brandt and Mikhail Gorbachev to Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair - and a debunking of the myth that it is only the strong, single-minded leader who makes a difference.

About the Author

Archie Brown is Emeritus Professor of Politics at Oxford University. For almost five decades he has written on Soviet and Communist politics, the Cold War, and political leadership. His previous books include The Gorbachev Factor (1996), Seven Years that Changed the World- Perestroika in Perspective (2007) and The Rise and Fall of Communism (Bodley Head, 2009).


"An important and unusual read... Brown does a wonderful job of showing how the same qualities that can seem so appealing in strong leaders can lead, in the mildest cases, to bad decisions - and, in the most extreme cases, to death and suffering on a massive scale... Though The Myth of the Strong Leader is about political leadership, you come away from Brown's book with a deeper understanding of leadership in general" -- Bill Gates "A profound, and wise, book - one of the most important works on politics for a long time. On the basis of penetrating, wide-ranging analysis, traversing democratic and authoritarian systems, Archie Brown clearly demonstrates the commonly held belief in strong leadership as the answer to political problems to be completely, often disastrously, misplaced." -- Sir Ian Kershaw "A brilliant exploration of political leaders in democratic, authoritarian and totalitarian regimes... Brown's excellent book stresses the importance of the context for the appearance of effective leaders and, when dealing with democratic regimes, the importance of the institutions" Political Quarterly "The best analysis of the nature of true leadership I have read." -- Gary Hart, Former United States Senator "This book badly needed to be written, and only Archie Brown - with his unique breadth of scholarly knowledge combined with a finger-tip feel for real-world politics - could possibly have written it. It turns out that there are fewer strong leaders in the world than is often supposed and that many of them, far from being desirable, are positively dangerous. Perhaps the best political systems are those that are effectively "leader-proofed"." -- Anthony King, Professor of Government at the University of Essex and co-author of The Blunders of Our Governments

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