Get the key ideas from

The Myth of the Strong Leader

Political Leadership in the Modern Age

By Archie Brown
12-minute read
Audio available
The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age by Archie Brown

The Myth of the Strong Leader (2014) explores why people tend to favor charismatic leaders, those they perceive as “strong.” These blinks show which factors allow such leaders to rise to power and why such a personality type shouldn’t necessarily lead a democratic society. Importantly, you’ll learn what can happen on an international scale when ill-suited “strong leaders” take the reins of a democracy.

  • Students of politics or history
  • People curious how authoritarian leaders rise to power
  • Aspiring leaders who want to lead fairly

An expert on the politics of Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom, Archie Brown is an emeritus professor of politics at Oxford University. He won the W. J. M. Mackenzie Prize of the Political Studies Association of the UK for best political book for both his titles, The Gorbachev Factor and The Rise and Fall of Communism.

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
3,000+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

The Myth of the Strong Leader

Political Leadership in the Modern Age

By Archie Brown
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age by Archie Brown
Synopsis

The Myth of the Strong Leader (2014) explores why people tend to favor charismatic leaders, those they perceive as “strong.” These blinks show which factors allow such leaders to rise to power and why such a personality type shouldn’t necessarily lead a democratic society. Importantly, you’ll learn what can happen on an international scale when ill-suited “strong leaders” take the reins of a democracy.

Key idea 1 of 7

The public’s conception of what makes good political leadership is deeply flawed.

Popular political opinion is shaped by certain influences, such as public speeches, media reports and lobbying efforts. But as a society, we’re not swayed into supporting particular leaders but often a certain kind of leader.

The media tends to portray a political leader as more powerful than the sum of the leader’s political party. This makes the public less likely to consider the inner workings of any democratic system, as the most attention is given to the leader at the top.

Leaders, in turn, often believe their own hype, making them seem more powerful in the eyes of the people. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, for example, wrote in his autobiography that he himself won three elections, rather than attributing his success to the Labour Party. His self-confidence was such that many came to see Blair as a sort of political messiah.

The public also mistakenly believes that a country’s well-being is contingent on its leader’s strength of character. Politicians themselves feed this perception, especially during election seasons.

It’s common for a politician to use “strong vs. weak” rhetoric to diminish opponents. So the electorate comes to view politics as yet another game of “survival of the fittest.”

Tory party head David Cameron, for instance, tried to paint Ed Miliband as “weak” when Miliband was named Labour leader. When Tory backbenchers defied party whips on a particular policy issue, however, Miliband tried to turn the tables by claiming that Cameron instead was the weak leader, having “lost control of his party.”

It’s true that a person who can’t stand up for himself won’t do well in politics, but being an effective leader isn’t just about strength. After all, survival also means knowing when to back away from danger.

The public misconception that leadership should be about power comes with a big risk, as it can push society toward totalitarianism.

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.