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Extraordinary Leadership and Radical Change in Democracy

Final Report Summary - EXTRALEAD (Extraordinary Leadership and Radical Change in Democracy)

As originally proposed, this project had two complementary aims. Firstly, it aspired to bring political leadership back into mainstream political analysis and, more specifically, provide an empirically-grounded general theory about the emergence of extraordinary leadership and how it may effectuate radical change in contemporary liberal democracy. Secondly, based on the new theory, aided by the competences meanwhile acquired, and explicitly seeking to make a decisive contribution to Europe’s knowledge-based economy, this project also aspired to launch a broad research program intended to study political leadership in contemporary Europe (West and East, North and South) in a systematic and theoretically sophisticated way. Although of a wide comparative scope, one particular focus case was contemporary Greece. Launching such a program, the proposal went on, would require deciding about the key dimensions of leadership that are worth studying in comparative perspective, formulating appropriate questionnaires, searching for research partners all over Europe, and organizing a scholarly network with a clearly-set agenda and work schedule.

All these aims have been fully achieved despite the two unexpected difficulties that emerged right in the beginning of the project. Let me begin with those difficulties. The first of them was the untimely passing away of Professor Peter Mair, my mentor in this project, in August 2011, that is, only two weeks before the project’s beginning. Professor Laszlo Bruszt, then Head of the SPS Department at EUI, became the new Scientist-in-Charge for this project. The second great difficulty was the economic and political crisis in my country, Greece, and the enormous dimensions it was taking day by day. As either problem was much bigger than me, I decided (a) to be more flexible with my original research agenda and (b) focus more closely on Greece. At the same time, I also realized that what distinguished Greece from other crisis-hit countries in Europe was the very strong populism that had contaminated the country’s political system and, consequently, Greece’s political leadership. I had therefore to also bring populism at the center of my work.

During the two years of my MCF, I pursued my research agenda with passion and enthusiasm. I managed to get a book contract by a major academic publisher (Macmillan Palgrave); published four (4) articles in peer reviewed academic journals while one (1) more is currently under R&R status; I produced one (1) chapter in an edited volume, two (2) book reviews, and three (3) working papers; and had another ten (10) publications in reviews, blogs, and other well-known outlets. At the same short time, I had two visiting positions, one at the Quality of Government Institute, at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and another at the Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies in Norway. I presented my work in about twenty (20) conferences, symposia or workshops, mostly as an invited guest, and I often also appeared in the press in various countries in Europe, US, and Australia. I managed to organize two workshops on populism (both in collaboration with Professor Hanspeter Kriesi), one at the EUI and the other in Sofia, Bulgaria, and also a panel on charismatic leadership in Baltimore, MA. Finally, I became involved with some consulting for NGOs and other academic groups.

Besides published academic output, my MC Fellowship was very beneficial in terms of my continuous training and the active participation in a multitude of activities at both the EUI and elsewhere. Of particular importance was enhancing the two complementary scientific competences of project management skills and increased policy relevance of my research. As expected in the beginning of the project, my participation in the EUDO activities was very important given the latter's role as both a forum and resource for policy makers. Last, but certainly not least, this fellowship was instrumental in helping me build networks, promote European and international research cooperations, and enhance the policy relevance of my research.

The results and findings of the research program that was undertaken during this MCF extends in the areas of political leadership, democratic politics, populism, and European politics, especially during the current financial and economic crisis. They are, therefore, fully relevant to recent and ongoing political developments in Europe and beyond it. They also target important constituencies in both academia and beyond it, such as party and other political leaders at both national and the European levels, other political practitioners representing civil society, and, of course, academics. As initially promised, I believe that this project has, indeed, made Europe more competitive in the fields it has focused and studied.