Leadership and Transformative Ambition in International Relations

Leadership and Transformative Ambition in International Relations

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Mark A. Menaldo

This enriching book explores a theoretical gap in international relations and the role of leader ambition. It presents the idea that some leaders transcend political constraints and as a result, they fundamentally reshape their domestic polity while introducing change to the international system.

Chapter 3: Personality and political ambition

Mark A. Menaldo

Subjects: politics and public policy, international relations, leadership


Realism and the strategic perspective explain leaders’ political ambition as something predetermined by the nature of international anarchy (realism) or by the requirements for political survival in democracies and autocracies (strategic perspective). These theories are not interested in the traditional view of leadership, in which individuals can have a greater degree of superior qualities such as courage, moderation, prudence, justice, and patriotism. In addition, some leaders have a much greater store of political ambition than others. This traditional perspective attaches critical importance to the character traits that are requisite for leadership, and the variation in these qualities has important consequences for politics. Realism and the strategic perspective emphasize the instrumental decisions that leaders should make when faced with different circum- stances. Theories of statesmanship seek to explain how the correct assemblage of character traits fosters its practice, or how an incomplete or flawed character can lead to failure.

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