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 4: The United Kingdom: Prime Ministerial Leadership and the Challenge of Governance

Gillian Peele

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


Gillian Peele This chapter explores different dimensions of the overlapping phenomena of poor leadership and bad governance in the context of the United Kingdom. It argues that, while we can find many examples of poor leadership and bad governance in the United Kingdom, establishing clear patterns and correlations is not straightforward. Rather, we find certain themes relating to the quality of leadership and governance recurring in different forms at different periods. Although the changing political context means that these themes are not entirely constant, there is enough continuity to suggest that the United Kingdom, like other Western democracies, has been wrestling with problems of leadership and governance which have the potential to undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of the political system as a whole. The concept of poor leadership as used throughout this volume focuses on aspects of ineffectiveness, inefficiency and related issues whereas bad governance is understood to refer to both bad policies and violations of the central norms of liberal democracy and more generally of public ethics. This ethical dimension of the concept of bad governance is more subtle than the various components of Kellerman’s model of ‘bad leadership’ (Kellerman 2004). Rather than involving callous, corrupt, insular or evil behaviour, my concern is that bad governance in the United Kingdom has increasingly involved the exploitation and manipulation of the advantages of office. Although this kind of unethical behaviour may be familiar, it may take novel forms as, for example, when the misleading distribution of information by government occurs...

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