The Foundations of the Study of Political Leadership

  • Robert Elgie
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Political Leadership book series (PSPL)


This chapter sets out a framework that tries to make sense of the study of political ‘leadership. This framework will be applied to the next four chapters. In this chapter, we begin by identifying three basic lines of inquiry that have been followed by scholars of political leadership since the establishment of the interactionist paradigm: normative political theory, the concept of behavioral leadership, and the study of leadership outcomes. We make it clear that this book is concerned with only one of these themes, the study of leadership outcomes broadly understood. More specifically, we are interested primarily in the work that has examined the influence of top-level political leaders, mainly presidents and prime ministers, on leadership outcomes. There has been a huge amount of work on this topic. The task is to make sense of it. To do so, we choose to identify the philosophical foundations of the various studies. We identify three general philosophies of science: positivism, constructivism, and scientific realism. These philosophies can be distinguished by the particular ontological and epistemological positions on which they are founded. We introduce the concepts of ontology and epistemology and identify the foundations of each of these three philosophies of science.


Prime Minister Political Leadership Scientific Realist Leadership Study Epistemological Position 
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Copyright information

© Robert Elgie 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Elgie
    • 1
  1. 1.Dublin City UniversityIreland

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