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A Note on the Rise and Decline of Strong Policy Leadership

Joe Wallis and Brian Dollery ()
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Joe Wallis: Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. Phone: 0064-3-4798650 Fax: 0064-3-4798174. Email:

Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics, 2004, vol. 15, issue 1, 3-24

Abstract: This paper seeks to extend Little’s (1988) theory of strong leadership. It links the demand for strong leadership to the prominence of economic rationalism during a period (the 1980s) when the authority of an interventionist policy paradigm had diminished. It shows how strong leadership is collectively supplied by a network that use “expression games†to strengthen its internal cohesion and differentiate relevant alternatives. The inflexibility of strong leadership and its tendency to generate anxiety led to an increased demand for more empathetic leadership during the 1990s. Although leaders pursuing this style helped consolidate the comprehensive reforms by facilitating adjustment to the “new realities†, their style also contained fatal flaws that are likely to generate disappointments and an eventual shift to a more pragmatic leadership style. A number of caveats to the application of this cyclical scheme that relates succeeding leadership styles to the stages of paradigmatic reform are considered.

Date: 2004
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