‘Don’t call me a leader, but I am one’: The Dutch mayor and the tradition of bridging-and-bonding leadership in consensus democracies

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Abstract

In some democratic contexts, there is a strong aversion to the directive,
individualistic and masculine expressions of leadership that have come to
dominate the study of political leadership. Such leadership is antithetical to
consensus democracies in parts of continental Europe, where the antipathy
to leadership has linguistic, institutional as well as cultural dimensions.
Political-administrative and socio-cultural contexts in these countries
provide little room for heroic expressions of leadership. Consequently,
alternative forms of leadership and associated vocabularies have developed
that carry profound practical relevance but that have remained
underexplored. Based on an in-depth mixed-method study, this article
presents the Dutch mayoralty as an insightful and exemplary case of what
can be called ‘bridging-and-bonding leadership’; it provides a clear
illustration of how understandings of democratic leadership can deviate
from the dominant paradigm and of how leading in a consensus context
brings about unique practical challenges for office holders. The analysis
shows that the important leadership task of democratic guardianship that
is performed by Dutch mayors is in danger of being overlooked by scholars
of political leadership, as are consensus-oriented leadership roles in other
parts of the world. For that reason, a recalibration of the leadership
concept is needed, developing an increased theoretical sensitivity towards
the non-decisive and process-oriented aspects of the leadership
phenomenon. This article specifies how the future study of leadership, as a
part of the change that is advocated, can benefit from adopting additional
languages of leadership.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-172
JournalLeadership
Volume13
Issue number2
Early online date2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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Keywords

  • Political leadership
  • Mayors
  • Consensus democracy
  • Democratic leadership
  • Democratic guardianship

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