Political Leadership

Political Leadership

New Horizons in Public Policy series

Howard Elcock

Political leadership is a concept central to understanding political processes and outcomes, yet its definition is elusive. Many disciplines have contributed to the study of leadership, including political theory, history, psychology and management studies. Political Leadership reviews the contributions of these disciplines along with a discussion of the work of classic authors such as Niccolo Machiavelli, Max Weber and Robert Michels.

Chapter 9: Case Study: Leadership in British Local Government

Howard Elcock

Subjects: politics and public policy, leadership


INTRODUCTION: PROPOSALS FOR EXECUTIVE MAYORS The importance of developing stronger political leadership and designing better support agencies for leaders has led to a major debate about structures of leadership in local government in Britain, Germany, the United States and elsewhere. It offers a useful case study for testing the analysis of leadership roles offered here. Its study provides both a contribution to a major current debate about leadership in local government and an attempt to apply the framework of roles outlined in Chapters 6 and 7 to see whether it enables us to make a useful contribution to the debate. In 1991, the then secretary of state for the environment, Michael Heseltine, published a consultation paper on the internal management of local authorities in which he reiterated the long-standing complaint that they suffer from weak coordination and poor overall control of their policies and management. He suggested that one way to improve the situation might be to introduce directly elected executive mayors like those who run many American cities (DoE, 1991). This proposal is widely disliked within local government itself (see Beecham, 1996; Doyle, 1996; Elcock 1998b; Leach and Wilson, 2000: 200). When Heseltine was replaced the following year by John Gummer, the idea largely faded from view, although it stimulated an academic discussion based on previous and new research about whether the American executive mayor could be transplanted to Britain and what the effects of doing so might be (Hambleton, 1991; Stoker and Wolman, 1992; Lavery, 1992; Borraz et...

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