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The Westminster Parliament is multifaceted, lacks cohesion and collective direction, appearing at times to challenge the very notion of a structured public institution…
The Westminster Parliament is multifaceted, lacks cohesion and collective direction, appearing at times to challenge the very notion of a structured public institution itself. Within an environment with little collective identity, understanding who leads in the UK Parliament is challenging; there are multiple, contestable sites of leadership and governance. The purpose of this article is to explore the understudied concept of legislative leadership, to better understand what goes on inside the legislature. The author presents a decentred and nuanced disaggregation of “leadership as practice” in parliament, examining three faces of legislative leadership.
Interpretive approaches to studying legislatures have presented new impetus to research in this area and the author utilises such anti-foundationalism. The article draws on ethnographic research into “everyday practices”, conducted during an academic fellowship in the UK Parliament from 2016 to 2019, which involved privileged access to the parliamentary estate. The data used include observations, shadowing and elite interviews collected during the fellowship.
By looking at the legislature from the inside, the author can better understand elite behaviour. This helps to explain motives, daily pressures and performative skills deployed in displays of autonomous, decentred leadership. The legislative leadership the author observed was atomised and could be stretched to accommodate the incumbent office holder. There were multiple relationships both formally constituted and informally constructed, but little collaborative or consensus leadership.
This article fulfils an identified need to study leadership in legislatures – and in particular key elites – from the inside.
This article sets out a new research agenda for decentered public leadership. Nested in the concept of decentered theory, it examines the messy and contested nature of…
This article sets out a new research agenda for decentered public leadership. Nested in the concept of decentered theory, it examines the messy and contested nature of public leadership practices in different contexts. Drawing on recent empirical studies that have adopted a decentered approach to examining public leadership, it sets out a future research agenda that places individuals, history and context at the heart of explanations for public leadership in action.