Booklist | The Myth of the Strong Leader’ by Archie Brown

Do strong leaders exist?  An Oxford don argues against the proposition–and does so quite skillfully:

It is a pleasure to find a book on political leadership that imposes no theories or models but studies actual political leaders, dozens of them from many countries, in a historical survey from the beginning of the 20th century.

In “The Myth of the Strong Leader,” Archie Brown, an emeritus professor of politics at Oxford, provides a guided tour through the great, the famous and the merely recognizable names among those figures who deserve to be held up as examples, good or bad, of leadership. The professor enjoys making summary judgments, which he does with the dispatch if not the wit of an Oxford don.

Mr. Brown is, however, burdened with a thesis. He argues that the strong leader is a myth—that true strength is not what it appears to be. Adolf Hitler, to cite an obvious case, might strike one as a strong leader, but, according to Mr. Brown, his “greatness, other than in a capacity to whip up evil, was an illusion.” He was strong in the sense of having a vigor that led to “ruinous adventures” but he came to a terrible end in despair and suicide. The strong leader, we may surmise, is defeated by his hubris, and his greatness, such as it may have been, is erased, his overreaching punished with rejection and execration.

via Book Review: ‘The Myth of the Strong Leader’ by Archie Brown – WSJ.com.

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