The political leaderships are the most influential positions in society because a person is elected by the constituents to control resources. At the same time, a leader is given the power over subordinates, institutions, economic and social resources, as well as the people. The power is exercised based on the constitution or the country’s legal framework. In many states, a leader is above the law and no one can question their actions through a legal system.
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Because of these privileges, political leaders have the discretion to do what they feel is right. Consequently, power might distort their ability to see other people’s perspectives. In the end, they might end up leading a corrupt government because they will only deal with people who support them. According to the Great Man theory, a good leader has biological attributes of leadership. They will exercise good leadership skills irrespective of power and influence.
In terms of the Behavioral theory, a good leader will demonstrate different behaviors in different circumstances. Nevertheless, the power and influence theory posits that power can change a person’s perception and the way they handle resources, subordinates, and subjects. In light of the above three theories, the paper correlates political leadership, power, and corruption.
The concept of leadership, especially in the political arena is complex and the perception of a good leader differs from one school of thought to another. The power and influence that come with political leadership can be possessive to an extent that a leader might lack control and become reckless. According to the Great Man theory, leaders have the genetic attributes with which they are born. It implies that a born leader will always exercise good leadership skills even with much power. Based on the Behavioral theory, a good leader will exhibit desired behaviors and actions through the effective use of power to influence development. It is challenging to control the power that comes with leadership. The ability of an individual to control power and influence determines how well they can lead.
Political leadership and the power it comes with can be deceiving and leaders can engage in immoral and unethical behaviors. In many countries, the sitting president cannot be prosecuted in the law courts. The law gives them the power and discretion to make decisions independently and influence several activities. It is the obligation of the leaders to ensure they follow the rule of the law (Fastovic, 2004). For example, President Nixon engaged in questionable behaviors during Watergate. It could be argued that the president behaved unethically because of the power and discretion he had been given by the constitution. In this context, a leader has the freedom of choice between doing the right things and doing the wrong things (Hellsten & Larbi, 2006).
The Great Man Theory
The idea developed above brings us to the concept of the Great Man theory. In the history of political leadership, great leaders have emerged throughout the world. On the other hand, some rulers have demonstrated poor leadership skills. All leaders have the power to do things the way they are pleased (Northouse, 2016). However, the question that arises is how different leaders leave great legacies, while others fail to provide good leadership.
In his theory of Great Man, Thomas Carlyle argued that the ability of an individual to lead has much to do with genetics (Spector, 2015). It posits that an individual’s genetic attributes determine their ability or inability to make good leaders. The theory can be used to explain why some leaders uphold the constitution and integrity while some violate the very rule of law they should protect.
To support the theory of Great Man, we can give an example of two leaders who work differently under the same conditions. In a democratic state, political leaders are elected by the majority. They are given the power to control resources and make decisions that will have a direct influence on the livelihood of their constituents (Northouse, 2016). One leader upholds the rule of law and makes decisions that influence people’s lives positively.
The leader creates good relations with stakeholders in social, economic, and political sectors locally and internationally. Such a leader leaves a great legacy that will be admired by the successors. Under the same conditions, another leader might use the power to serve personal interests, please the cronies, and neglect the people. They might go as far as using dictatorship and brutality to silence those who oppose their bad regime.
Genetically, people have inherent attributes that are part of them. Through these unique characters, people tend to have different perceptions about things, including leadership skills. While some people might be true to their allegiance, others might be deceitful, corrupt, and brutal. According to the Great Man theory, a leader is born. It implies that leadership depends on the biological attributes, which distinguish a good ruler from the bad one (Spector, 2015).
Some leaders are comfortable when they achieve personal gains. However, others will go to an extreme end in order to ensure that people’s interests are served. For instance, Nelson Mandela served almost three decades in detention because he was determined to free his people from an oppressive rule. After his release, he only served as a president for one term. Such selflessness can only be attributed to the genetic characters of a person and not the leadership skills learned (Northouse, 2016).
Power is one of the most challenging aspects of politics. The main objective of vying for a political position is to gain power and influence over people and resources. Power helps an individual to make connections both locally and internationally. The influence that comes with power presents an opportunity that can be used by the elected leaders to develop or destroy society (Fastovic, 2004). Power gives a person the ability to do bad things and get away with them. According to Bentham (1970), it gives a leader the opportunity to manipulate legal systems, institutions, and resources the way they are pleased. Therefore, power can intoxicate leaders to engage in vices simply because their actions cannot be questioned.
Power has benefits and disadvantages, which leaders must understand. In the leadership realm, confidence and assertiveness are necessary elements one requires to make decisions and give directions. A leader can use the power to delegate duties, allocate resources, and make decisions that would create confidence in people, institutions, and economic partners (Spector, 2015). Such approaches will help the state to move forward and execute their businesses in accordance with the will of people. In other words, they will have used the power to get things done in the right way.
Hellsten and Larbi (2006) argue that power is the only tool a person can use to implement desired goals and objectives. An individual might exhibit good leadership skills and create agendas that will serve the best interests of the people. However, such great ideas remain a dream unless the person is elected to a political position. As a leader, an individual gets the constitutional power to put those great ideas into action.
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Therefore, we can say that power is a good tool that can be used to foster the political, economic, and social development of a country. What a potential leader needs are the political power to change the current situation and improve socioeconomic and political conditions.
On the other hand, power can be possessive especially among the egocentric leaders who focus more on their personal desires than they do on people’s demands. Instead of using power as an opportunity for development, they use it to accumulate wealth and stop seeing the importance of other people’s perspectives. Certain leaders are power hungry and they can use it to subjugate the very people who invested the power in them (Gerring & Thacker, 2004). The opportunities and self-satisfaction that come with power when a person ascends a political position are tempting. A few leaders resist the temptations that come with power. That brings us to the question of whether power is a source of corruption or great leadership.
The Behavioral Theory
To answer the above question, it is important to highlight the behavioral theory of leadership. How leaders use power depends on the way they do things. The concept focuses on the way leaders behave. It is difficult for a leader to dictate things and expect cooperation. People feel happy when they are involved in leadership processes (Spector, 2015). Inclusive decision-making processes encourage people to accept and support the leader.
For instance, a president who engages members of Congress in important debates is viewed as a democratic leader who is ready to tolerate and accept diverse views. In light of the behavioral theory, the ability of a leader to use power effectively can be discussed in three perspectives. These include autocratic, democratic, and Laissez-faire approaches.
The autocratic approach to leadership occurs when the leader exhibits authoritative behavior towards people. Such leaders tend to make decisions without engaging other leaders. According to Northouse (2016), the model of leadership has both advantages and disadvantages. A leader can use autocracy when there is an urgency to give direction. For instance, a president might be required to deliver a speech when there is a state of emergency. In such situations, there will be no time to make elaborate consultations. Instead, the leader will use personal leadership skills to control the situation. Sometimes, a sharp disagreement might occur among the cabinet ministers. Trying to engage the ministers might not give a successful outcome (Spector, 2015). Under such circumstances, the leader will autocratically use the power to calm the storm.
On the other hand, autocratic leaders might be seen as dictators, especially when they make decisions that require consultations. For instance, negative economic status is one of the conditions that will have a direct effect on all sectors.
A leader cannot develop economies policies to avert inflation without consulting key players in the country’s economic development programs. Based on the importance of internal relations and foreign policies, a president should not deploy military forces to attack another country without a wide consultation (Mackie, 2009). Although the leader has the power to do so, the outcome of such decisions might cause serious problems in the country.
In the context of behavioral theory, the second perspective is the democratic approach to leadership. Democratic leaders allow their subordinates to give input to agendas before they can be implemented (Boswell & Brown, 1999). It is based on the concept of the “majority rule”. Political leaderships involve many players who should work as a team to create strong legal, economic, social, and political institutions and policies. The problem with the democratic style of leadership is that a leader might find it difficult to manage the situation when there are many different perspectives. Although democratic attributes are encouraged throughout the world, it reaches a point when a leader must make a decision without involving others.
The third aspect of leadership behavior that supports behavioral theory is laissez-faire. In this case, leaders do not interfere with the progress made by their subordinates. They allow leaders of various government institutions to make several decisions. Such kind of political leadership is dominant in a democratic state where institutions have independent authorities to make decisions and develop policies that would influence their operations.
The laissez-faire approach works effectively when other leaders have the capacity, are motivated, and can work without supervision (Northouse, 2016). This style of leadership can fail when the top leader is lazy and has the tendency of passing responsibility to junior officers.
The way in which leaders behave determines their performance. It is important to note that neither of the leadership behaviors is good nor bad. However, different situations might need different actions. For instance, a leader might command the military forces to attack a terrorist group based in another country. After the terrorist attack of September 2001, the Bush Administration made a controversial decision to launch a military attack on the Taliban and Al-Qaida in Afghanistan (Jalali, 2006).
The president took an authoritative decision to destroy the terrorist so that he could limit the terrorist threat to the United States. Several local and internal stakeholders criticized the move. However, the president had to make the decision to protect the Americans from possible future attacks. So long as the intent is for the best interest of the majority, the means of executing those actions can be justified.
Power and Corruption
The connection between power and corruption is a diverse issue that can take both positive and negative perspectives. Political power has been closely related to corruption. Nevertheless, the question that many have been seeking its answer is whether power leads to corruption. It is due to the possibility of some individuals developing the urge for power because they are inherently corrupt (Hellsten & Larbi, 2006). Power gives the leaders more abilities and discretion to act as they are pleased. Some individuals might use political opportunities to deceive people to vote for them as their leaders. Afterward. They can use the opportunity to enrich themselves, oppress their opponents, and downgrade economic advancement that had been made in the past.
Democracy has been promoted across the world as one of the best political ideologies. The main reason is that democracy gives individuals and institutions the freedom to execute their duties without interference (Gerring & Thacker, 2004).
Although it sounds good, too much freedom makes leaders misbehave. Without the controlling aspect, leaders have been using their power to engage in endless misbehaviors. In many instances, political leaders in a democratic environment might use the tyranny of numbers as a tool to engage in unethical and unruly conduct. Corruption in a political realm cannot only be viewed in terms of financial gains achieved by the leaders.
In many countries, leaders have had the tendency to rewarding those who elected them and oppressing those who voted their opponents. Such conducts cause suffering among the people who held different views during political campaigns and elections. The idea of neglecting opponents when a leader has the responsibility to serve everyone irrespective of their perceptions violates the essence of democracy (Chapra, 2003). It is the worst form of corruption in which a leader can engage. Using power as a corruption tool can cause extensive suffering, drift in socioeconomic and political policies, wasted public resources, and inefficient governance.
Corruption goes beyond mere financial gains and rewarding of cronies. It has much to do with the change in personality, self-inflation, and deep moral degeneration. When leaders address the media, what they say, and the way in which they express themselves to determine their intention. Gandhi once said that power possession makes leaders blind and deaf. Corruption triggered by power is caused by the leaders’ inability to see because they have developed a disorder of perception. Before a person holds the power, they may have the same views with others (Gerring & Thacker, 2004). However, they change after gaining power and start doing things in the wrong ways. Unequal status and privileges leaders enjoy making certain things unrealistic or invisible to them.
As a person possesses power, they increasingly develop confidence, diversify their views from local to international relations. They meet different leaders and learn about various aspects of power. As they continue to build their governance systems, they gain more power, and people who surround them cannot contradict their opinions. They become isolated and no one can approach or question their actions (Chapra, 2003). It is dangerous when a person cannot take advice because no one has the ability to always do things right. Leading people involves complex dimensions that require critics, professionals, and other people with leadership experiences. Although the final decisions lie with the current leader, it is always important to listen to others.
When exploring the ways in which power corrupts leaders, the main issues that should be addressed is the manner in which it causes corruption and things that make it happen. Power distorts an individual’s perception because of the privileges and isolations to which they are exposed. The situation promotes four main issues that trigger corruption (Northouse, 2016). The distortion of power results in personal glory, arrogance, and lack of control leading to reckless decisions.
It creates a progressive contempt towards the subjects, suspicion, and cruelty that leads to dictatorship. The leader gradually separates from the rest and select a group of advisors who always agree with selfish ideas. As a result, the leader totally lacks awareness of the ongoing corruption in the country (Mackie, 2009).
Power and Influence Theory
The influence of power as the cause of corruption can be explained better using the Power and Influence theory. According to Calhoun (2004), the concept of power and influence take an approach different from the Great Man and Behavioral theories. It is based on the fact that leaders use the power and influence to execute their duties. The manner in which a leader uses the power invested in them determines their ability to uphold integrity or engage in corruption. In the Five Forms of Power by French and Raven, a leadership style based on positional power can take three perspectives. These include legitimate, reward, and coercive leadership, as well as the personal appeals and charisma (Boswell & Brown, 1999).
A leader can use power as a tool to make significant changes in governance. In this context, the changes made can reflect a good or bad leader. When changes are aimed at achieving the good for all, then people will view the leader as a good person. Otherwise, the leader might be termed a corrupt or a dictator (Bentham, 1970). A transactional leader can use the power and influence to perpetuate corruption. In this leadership approach, the elected leaders believe that their subordinates and subjects can only do things to get rewards and nothing else. In terms of economic and social gains, this kind of leadership is not appealing. According to Fastovic (2004), the leader can use public resources to influence others to serve their interests.
Political leadership is the most influential in any given society. Irrespective of the prevailing political ideology, the leadership structure, and organization in the current politics are hierarchical in nature. Although hierarchical leadership might be viewed as a dangerous structure, it has certain advantages. Having someone in a political position to create and execute policies that control resources is inevitable.
We need leaders in political positions to give directions and help in creating mutual, economic, and social relations locally and internationally. The most worrying aspect is the power that comes with political leadership. Based on the Great Man and Behavioral theories, a person who is born a leader will always exhibit good behavior. It does not matter how much power vested in the person. What matters is the attributes and willingness to use public resources and power to make significant changes in the lives of people.
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