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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Not Only Solitary Leaders at the Top: The Experience of Sharing Party Leadership

Comparative Politics
Political Leadership
Political Parties
Donatella Campus
Università di Bologna
Marco Valbruzzi
Università di Bologna
Donatella Campus
Università di Bologna

Current research, especially in recent times, has recognized the centrality of party leaders and their individual characteristics (Blondel and Thiébault 2010; Musella 2018; Cross and Pilet 2015). As a consequence of the rise of some ‘personal’ parties controlled by their founders (from Berlusconi’s Forza Italia to Macron’s En Marche) and of an increasing personalization within parties and political organizations, the attention has been especially directed towards vertical leadership, which implies just one leader at the top, rather than towards cases of leadership duos or teams (for an exception, see t’Hart and Walter 2014). However, one-chief leadership is not the only existing model of party governance neither the process of personalization involves necessarily just a single leader. The team leadership of Five Star Movement in Italy and the experience of co-leadership of Green parties in Germany, Belgium or in UK can be taken as examples of alternative models.

The paper will discuss the conceptual and theoretical bases to analyze those cases in which powers and responsibilities at the top level of party organizations and governments appear to be shared among different individuals rather than concentrated in the hands of a single individual. Drawing on the literature of organization theory (Pearce and Conger 2003; Alvarez and Svejenova 2005; de Voogt and Hommes 2007) the paper will analyze different concepts (co-leadership, team leadership, leadership duos, leadership couple, shared leadership, etc.) and their existing and/or potential applications to the political field.

The paper aims, firstly, at highlighting some key dimensions – for example, complementarity, division of labor, and role differentiation – to be used to distinguish different types of political leadership. Secondly, the paper intends to develop a set of indicators covering both communication and organizational aspects. As regards the former aspect, the goal will be to assess to what extent the communication is leader-centered and how many actors are in charge of it; as regards the latter, the focus will be both on the degree of leaders’ autonomy in the party governance and the power distribution in the executives. Finally, the paper will consider some key issues about the selection of co-leaders, the relationship between them and with their collaborators and staffs, the performance and durability of their association.
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