Poor Leadership and Bad Governance

Poor Leadership and Bad Governance

Reassessing Presidents and Prime Ministers in North America, Europe and Japan

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Edited by Ludger Helms

Focusing on the presidents and prime ministers of the G8 – the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Japan – it explores the complex relationship between weak and ineffective leadership, undemocratic leadership techniques, and bad policies from a broad comparative perspective. What makes leaders weak or bad in different contexts? What are the consequences of their actions and behaviour? And has there been any learning from negative experience? These questions are at the centre of this fascinating joint inquiry that involves a team of truly distinguished leadership scholars.

Chapter 2: In the Grip of Context: American Presidents and their Choices

Bert A. Rockman

Subjects: business and management, business leadership, politics and public policy, leadership


Bert A. Rockman As in all countries, there have been many instances of both poor leadership and bad governance in the United States in the years postdating the conclusion of World War II. That, of course, is not to say that the years predating 1945 were lacking in poor leadership and bad governance as well. Since the United States had a costly civil war in the middle of the nineteenth century, one might conclude that the earlier history of the United States was replete with more devastating errors than the years of the post-war era. Still, recent American history is laden with bad governance and cases of poor leadership. In fact, one scarcely knows where to begin. Picking out notorious cases of poor leadership and of bad governance implies a normative posture. The problem, of course, is that my idea of the public good may be someone else’s idea of a public bad and vice versa. Different people bring different judgmental criteria to bear on both the quality of leadership and its presumptive result, the quality of government. Aside from this rather obvious, yet important, consideration, other matters obscure and complicate attributions of responsibility as we think about both leadership and its consequences for governance. COMPLICATIONS The first complication is that not all governments are faced with the same set of choices. The menu from which to choose courses of action (or inaction) is more elaborate the more expansive a country’s status as a regional or global power. The longer...

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