The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age.pdf
Archie Brown is Emeritus Professor of Politics at Oxford University. For almost five decades he has written on Soviet and Communist politics, the Cold War, and political leadership. He previous books include The Gorbachev Factor (1996), Seven Years that Changed the World: Perestroika in Perspective (2007) and The Rise and Fall of Communism (Bodley Head, 2009).
In this magisterial and wide-ranging survey of political leadership over the past hundred years, Archie Brown challenges the widespread belief that strong leaders - those who dominate their colleagues and the policy-making process - are the most successful and admirable. Within democracies a collegial style of leadership is too often characterized as weakness and its advantages overlooked. Even in authoritarian regimes, a more collective leadership is a lesser evil compared with personal dictatorship where cultivation of the myth of the strong leader is often a prelude to oppression and carnage. 'Strong leaders' in democratic countries can do less harm, but here too the idea that one leader knows best and is entitled to take the big decisions is dangerous, even though overweening leaders in democracies are seldom as strong or independent as they purport to be. In reality, only a minority of political leaders make a big difference, by challenging assumptions about the politically possible or setting in motion systemic change. Yet in a democracy that is rare. It is especially when enlightened leaders acquire power in an authoritarian system that the opportunity for radical transformation occurs. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, Willy Brandt and Mikhail Gorbachev, Deng Xiaoping and Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair are among the leaders whom Brown examines in this original and illuminating study.