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Rediscovering local leadership diversity: political leaders select multiple strategies

Filipe Teles
Universidade de Aveiro
Filipe Teles
Universidade de Aveiro
Open Panel

Abstract

Literature on political leadership has been almost exclusively focused on contextual and constitutional determinants of individual behaviour, relying on institutional and structural explanation of action, or, as in the case of trait theories, predominantly biased by personal capabilities. It also reflects and assumes a general trend towards a more collaborative or facilitative style of leadership as a consequence of contemporary governance. This paper takes into account both the scope of the dispersal of the leadership role in contemporary local democracies, and the consequences of the personalisation of politics, with their apparently opposite directions. The leadership role of local politicians asks for the development of tools that allows us to understand what drives different ways of performing it, enhances our appreciation of the complexity of political leadership, assesses the outcomes of each leadership style and deepens our knowledge about policy tools. Overall, the paper advances a new approach on local political leadership and claims scholarship should revive the issue. Our research addresses the question of how does a leader select and change his way of acting, claiming that political leadership styles articulate a choice of action that results from the Political Will of a leader, which is determined by his intention and his discerned possibilities to act. With the purpose of assessing the degree to which the content of the leader’s intentions and of his different perceptions have an influence over leadership styles, and in order to learn about significant features of the phenomenon and how it varies under similar circumstances, we conducted a comparative study with different Mayors of Portuguese municipalities. This paper presents the conclusions of this research programme and suggests the need for reconsidering the diversity of local leadership styles.