Studying political leadership in modern democracies

This program examines democratic governance from two seemingly-contrasting perspectives, which are in fact deeply related. It is concerned particularly with the theory and practice of political leadership in modern democracies, especially the way democracy defines, empowers and limits democratic leaders. It also examines democratic governance as a distributed phenomenon, comprised of networks and discourses reaching far into, and often originating in, the wider public sphere.

Thus, this research initiates a new approach that combines the study of political leadership, which is typically top-down in focus, with an approach that sets leadership in a rich context of bottom-up politics and dispersed institutions.

Program leaders: Professors John Kane and John Parkinson


John Parkinson is an applied democracy theorist and policy scholar in the Centre for Governance and Public Policy. His books include Deliberative Systems (with Jane Mansbridge, Harvard), and Democracy and Public Space, with a new book called Mapping and Measuring Deliberation with André Bächtiger (Stuttgart) coming out in 2018.

John’s current research project, ‘Sparking a National Conversation’, compares the 2014 Scottish independence debate with the current Australian campaign to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the constitution. It is funded by the Australian Research Council.

Find out more

Want to know more?

Get in touch with the Centre for Governance and Public Policy