By Ronald H. Chilcote
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There are many more studies of individual high-level positions, such as studies of the US presidency, the British prime ministership, the German Chancellorship, and so forth. There are also cross-national studies of such institutions, including studies of Latin American presidents, as well as large-n studies of presidents and/or prime ministers in democracies more broadly. There are more personalized studies, including biographies and autobiographies, 32 Studying Political Leadership of individual political leaders, often identifying the subject’s impact on events.
This framework will be applied to the next four chapters. In this chapter, we begin by identifying three basic lines of inquiry that have been followed by scholars of political leadership since the establishment of the interactionist paradigm: normative political theory, the concept of behavioral leadership, and the study of leadership outcomes. We make it clear that this book is concerned with only one of these themes, the study of leadership outcomes broadly understood. More specifically, we are interested primarily in the work that has examined the influence of top-level political leaders, mainly presidents and prime ministers, on leadership outcomes.
Natural philosophers started to investigate the empirical world systematically. One example was Isaac Newton. He identified physical laws, such as the law of gravity, which were considered to have universal application. In the 19th century, a strong positivist tradition also emerged within the social sciences. Indeed, the term was coined in this context. Some of the late 19th century writers whom we came across in the previous chapter, such as Herbert Spencer and Francis Galton, were at the forefront of the positivist approach to the study of social phenomena.