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date: 10 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article presents an overview of key approaches and findings in institutional leadership analysis. It traces the evolutionary dynamics within a field that spans contributions from more than a century. While it is possible to separate older from new institutionalisms in the study of political leadership, there is no clear-cut chronological order of different theoretical and methodological approaches. Specifically, old institutionalism with its focus on formal institutions has not died out but secured a prominent status in contemporary leadership research, especially in continental Europe. New institutionalism that emerged out of a conceptual critique of the behaviouralist paradigm has remained a set of strongly differing approaches that share few defining features with one another. Within this latter field, approaches that consider institutions as formal and informal rules that provide incentives and constraints to actors have become particularly influential. More recent approaches that conceptualize institutions as ideas create new agendas for political leadership research that are waiting to be exploited on a larger scale. The considerable transaction costs notwithstanding, the marked pluralism in institutional theory and leadership analysis is to be welcomed in terms of the unique richness of insights into the complex phenomenon of political leadership it is able to offer.

Keywords: institutions, institutionalism, rules, structures, ideas, government

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