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The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in Modern Politics

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Home » Books » Nonfiction » Politics » Government » Comparative

The Myth of the Strong Leader

Political Leadership in Modern Politics

By Professor Archie Brown

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Format: Hardcover, 512 pages
Published In: United States, 01 April 2014
All too frequently, leadership is reduced to a simple dichotomy: the strong versus the weak. Yet, there are myriad ways to exercise effective political leadership--as well as different ways to fail. We blame our leaders for economic downfalls and praise them for vital social reforms, but rarely do we question what makes some leaders successful while others falter. In this magisterial and wide-ranging survey of political leadership over the past hundred years, renowned Oxford politics professor Archie Brown challenges the widespread belief that strong leaders -- meaning those who dominate their colleagues and the policy-making process -- are the most successful and admirable. In reality, only a minority of political leaders will truly make a lasting difference. Though we tend to dismiss more collegial styles of leadership as weak, it is often the most cooperative leaders who have the greatest impact. Drawing on extensive research and decades of political analysis and experience, Brown illuminates the achievements, failures and foibles of a broad array of twentieth century politicians. Whether speaking of redefining leaders like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Margaret Thatcher, who expanded the limits of what was politically possible during their time in power, or the even rarer transformational leaders who played a decisive role in bringing about systemic change -- Charles de Gaulle, Mikhail Gorbachev and Nelson Mandela, among them -- Brown challenges our commonly held beliefs about political efficacy and strength. Overturning many of our assumptions about the twentieth century's most important figures, Brown's conclusions are both original and enlightening. The Myth of the Strong Leader compels us to reassess the leaders who have shaped our world -- and to reconsider how we should choose and evaluate those who will lead us into the future.

About the Author

Archie Brown is Emeritus Professor of Politics at Oxford University and an Emeritus Fellow of St. Antony's College, Oxford, where he was a Professor of Politics and Director of St. Antony's Russian and East European Centre. In 2010 he received one of the three Diamond Jubilee Lifetime Achievement in Political Studies Awards. Brown is considered one of the foremost experts in Soviet and Communist politics, the Cold War, and political leadership, and has advised several political leaders, including Margaret Thatcher on the eve of Gorbachev's first visit to Britain. The author or editor of over eighteen books, including The Gorbachev Factor and The Rise and Fall of Communism,both winners of the W.J.M. Mackenzie Prize for best political science book of the year,Brown lives in Oxford.

Reviews

Bill Gates' Favorite Books of 2016 "...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." Washington Post "Counter-intuitive but splendidly argued ... This is an ambitious work made more compelling by its breadth." Foreign Affairs "Rich and multidimensional." Wall Street Journal "It is a pleasure to find a book on political leadership that imposes no theories or models but studies actual political leaders, dozens of them from many countries, in a historical survey from the beginning of the 20th century." Guardian, UK "A rich description of different varieties of political leadership in diverse cultures. It is hard to imagine a better guide than Brown, who has lived and worked in the UK, US and Russia, and is both an outstanding political scholar and an elegant, witty writer." Independent, UK "Persuasive analysis of politically leadership." Choice "Impressive in scope and sophistication, Brown offers a model of leadership that is both strong and purpose driven." Kirkus "A sure-handed historical review with an engaging viewpoint." Publishers Weekly "Rich in historical detail and insight." Booklist "Brown raises important questions about the nature of leadership and the expectations we have for our leaders." Ian Kershaw "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." Anthony King, Professor of Government at the University of Essex and co-author of The Blunders of Our Governments "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'." Charles King, Professor of International Affairs and Government, Georgetown University "For nearly a half century, Archie Brown has been one of our most perceptive observers of world leaders and their contexts, from Mikhail Gorbachev's Soviet Union to Margaret Thatcher's Britain and beyond. His message is that our virtues are in fact our vices. Being decisive, staying the course, and having a clear vision are lauded as the core requirements of good leadership--yet they have just as often blinded those in authority to the folly of their own choices. Established leaders as well as aspiring ones should heed the lessons in Brown's timely book." Jack F. Matlock, Jr., author of Autopsy on an Empire, Reagan and Gorbachev, and Superpower Illusions "A brilliant analysis of leadership in democratic, authoritarian, and totalitarian states, Archie Brown's The Myth of the Strong Leader draws on a remarkably wide range of examples and is distinguished by the relevance of its insights and by the precision and clarity of their exposition. It is an absorbing read that deserves to become a modern classic of political thinking." Barbara Kellerman, James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government "Hallelujah! For those of us in Leadership Studies the dry spells can be long-long periods of time without sensational additional contributions to the field. Brown's is such a book, a gift to serious students of leadership, equally a gift to thoughtful practitioners. As befits a historian and political scientist of international eminence, Brown has crafted a sweeping survey of the field. Some of the book is theory but most of it is rooted in the real world of leaders, followers, and the political context within which the two necessarily are embedded. This, finally, is a book that belongs on the shelf of anyone, everyone, who is remotely interested in the political dynamics of dominance and deference." Gary Hart, Former United States Senator "The best analysis of the nature of true leadership I have read. Turning his considerable erudition on Russia and communism to the vaguely-discussed but seldom qualitatively defined question of political leadership, Professor Brown dismantles the myth that power equals strength and that strength guarantees positive outcomes. Genuine leadership, he cogently argues, redefines national directions and social agendas and transforms entire political systems as the means to move nations forward. History, experience, and wisdom underwrite his case.

EAN: 9780465027668
ISBN: 0465027660
Publisher: Basic Books
Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.7 x 23.5 centimetres (0.73 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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