Selection of Leaders

The method of appointment affects what sort of person becomes a leader.  Most of the time, managerial efficiency is the most important factor in running a country well – but elections tend to be won by politicians with charisma rather than those with managerial skills:

●  Dictators come to power by being able to inspire, or at least control, their followers.  This does not necessarily mean that they would run a country in the interests of all the people.  A person who can seize power needs charisma, aggression, and self-confidence, which are characteristics which do not align with the need to listen to what the people want or, in the face of declining popularity, with the need to gracefully hand over power to someone else.

●  Elected presidents also need charisma, aggression, and self-confidence, but they must be able to attract the support of the majority of the population.

●  Prime ministers who are appointed by their political parties are more likely to be chosen for their ability to unite the party and manage it well, but they must also lead the party at election time – so their public image and electability are factors when they are chosen.

●  The two major political parties in Britain have recently experimented with a ‘pseudo-presidential’ system of appointing their leaders: delegating the task of appointing the leader to party members, whose views are representative of the party rather than the country as a whole.  As explained by The Economist, Britain’s prime minister becomes a rotten presidency:

“Candidates to become prime minister end up appealing to a narrow caucus of self-selecting members, rather than lawmakers chosen by the electorate at large.  This is a path to polarisation.”

●  So-called ‘technocratic’ leaders coming from outside politics don’t always have political legitimacy, as discussed in an article Mario Draghi: is Italy’s addiction to technocratic leaders a cause for concern?  Elected leaders are “more democratically accountable.”


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6345.htm.