Scientific Realist Accounts of Political Leadership: Political Psychology

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


In this chapter we focus on the first of two sets of scientific realist accounts of political leadership. The first set we examine focuses on the psychology of political leaders. According to Harold Lasswell (1930: 1), one of the founders of political psychology, ‘political science without biography is a form of taxidermy.’ As we shall see, political psychologists do not deny the importance of context. However, in the relationship between leaders and context, political psychologists place the emphasis on the personality of political leaders. This emphasis sets political psychology accounts apart from contextual accounts of leadership that we will examine in the next chapter. In this chapter, we begin by introducing the sub-discipline of political psychology, placing it within a scientific realist perspective, and making some general points about political psychology and the study of leadership. We then identify three political psychology accounts of political leadership. The first emphasizes psychobiographical accounts of political leaders. The second privileges a broad understanding of personality and examines how the personality of individual political leaders affects political outcomes. The third identifies more general leadership styles. We end by pointing out some of the strengths and weaknesses of political psychology accounts of political leadership.


Foreign Policy Cognitive Style Political Leadership Leadership Style Scientific Realist 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© Robert Elgie 2015

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations