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Magnanimous leadership: Edmund Barton and the Australian founding*

Haig Patapan

Keywords: Edmund Barton; leadership; democracy; democratic transitions; magnanimity; honour; founding


This article explores the nature of leadership that is needed in democratic transitions. It argues that the conventional scholarship on democratisation, and the leadership scholarship on transformative and transactional leaders, needs to be augmented by an older conception of leadership, first formulated by Aristotle as the ‘great souled’ individual and later termed ‘magnanimity’. The meaning of magnanimous leadership, and its relevance for contemporary democratic transitions, is explored through an examination of the Australian founding, and in particular the leadership of Edmund Barton, who was instrumental in securing Australian federation.

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