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Thinking about Leadership by Nannerl O. Keohane

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SIX

How Do Character, Ethics, andLeadership Interact?

WHAT DOES HOLDING POWER do to a person over time? Robert Michels claims that “the exercise of power produces a profound and ineffaceable change in the character.” Most observers would agree, and add—as Michels did—that the effects are usually not beneficial. “The permanent exercise of leadership exerts upon the moral character of the leaders an influence which is essentially pernicious.”1 Is this a fair assessment?

Mark Philp notes one salient factor—that “politics is a much more internally complex, human, and grubby domain of activity than most political theory recognizes. It is a domain in which human passions, ambitions, loyalties and treacheries have a major impact on who gets to exercise ...

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