Pub. date: 2011 | Online Pub. Date: October 04, 2011 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412994163 | Print ISBN: 9781412959636 | Online ISBN: 9781412994163| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Given the essential and inescapable role of leaders in political life, the notion of political leadership has been a constant presence in the development of political thought. Historically, however, there has never been an agreed-on definition of political leadership, and even the political science literature developed during the second half of the 20th century has not modified the somewhat fuzzy nature of this concept. It was the contribution of the modern elite theory—and particularly the work of Gaetano Mosca, Robert Michels, and Vilfredo Pareto—which overwhelmed the traditional Machiavellian associations between “leader” and “power,” as well as the vision of the “great man” theory of history. In the context of elite theory, leadership was conceived of as a behavioral concept: It is relatively easy to individuate leaders as persons who exercise control over the behavior of others, but their capabilities and their natures vary from one case to another. The new ...