Leadership in Context

Hargrove, E.C. and Owens, J. 2002. Leadership in Context. Politics & Policy. 30 (2), pp. 199-207. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-1346.2002.tb00121.x

TitleLeadership in Context
TypeJournal article
AuthorsHargrove, E.C. and Owens, J.
Abstract

The seven essays in this collection explore important questions that are at the heart of the understanding of political leadership. We ask: what are the relationships among personal political skill, the strength or weakness of institutional roles available to leaders, and the changing historical and political contexts within which leaders act?

Politicians with agendas for change seek to create dynamic relations of talent, institutional powers, and the politics of strategic leadership in the environments that they face. Passive leaders may leave things as they are or inadvertently stimulate new political opposition. Institutional powers may strengthen the hand of less skillful politicians if the environment is favorable. And political climates will vary greatly in the degrees to which they are favorable to potentially skillful leadership. Effective leadership may be successful by a hair’s breadth, or it may be over determined by context.

The different answers that political scientists have provided to these questions may be arrayed along a continuum at one end of which are located scholars who view the actions of leaders as determined in large part by the political contexts and situations in which they work. Given similar situations, these contextualists argue, leaders in the same position will act in similar ways without much individual variation (Lowi 1985; Cooper and Brady 1981; Rhode 1991; Sinclair 1999). In the nineteenth century, exponents of the 'Great Man' [sic] theory occupied the other end of this continuum. Now, currently unpopulated, scattered at points away from the contextualist pole are several approaches that allow individual leaders greater freedom of action and capacity to use their political skills. According to these interpretations, leaders use the institutional roles that they occupy to seek out and exploit with varying degrees of success opportunities for leadership - what Machiavelli calls fortuna (the contingent of history) - to exercise influence over the political context (Burke and Greenstein 1989; Doig and Hargrove 1987, Hargrove 1998, Owens 1985; Palazzolo 1992; Peters 1990; Strahan 1992; Strahan, Moscardelli, Haspel, and Wike 2000.)

KeywordsPolitical leadership
leadership in context
leadership skills
contextualist theory
interactionist theory
comparative political leadership
JournalPolitics & Policy
Journal citation30 (2), pp. 199-207
ISSN0730-2127
Year2002
PublisherWiley
Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-1346.2002.tb00121.x
Web address (URL)https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1747-1346.2002.tb00121.x
Publication dates
Published in printJun 2002

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