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Transformative Political Leadership

Making a Difference in the Developing World

Accomplished political leaders have a clear strategy for turning political visions into reality. Through well-honed analytical, political, and emotional intelligence, leaders chart paths to promising futures that include economic growth, material prosperity, and human well-being. Alas, such leaders are rare in the developing world, where often institutions are weak and greed and corruption strong—and where responsible leadership therefore has the potential to effect the greatest change.
In Transformative Political Leadership, Robert I. Rotberg focuses on the role of leadership in politics and argues that accomplished leaders demonstrate a particular set of skills. Through illustrative case studies of leaders who have performed ably in the developing world—among them Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Seretse Khama in Botswana, Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, and Kemal Ataturk in Turkey—Rotberg examines how these leaders transformed their respective countries. The importance of capable leadership is woefully understudied in political science, and this book will be an important tool in exploring how leaders lead and how nations and institutions are built.

216 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2012

Economics and Business: Economics--Development, Growth, Planning

Political Science: Comparative Politics, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, and International Relations


“Robert I. Rotberg’s imaginative focus—political leadership of developing countries—throws a unique and brilliant light on the complexities of leading during crisis and change. The eloquently written case studies of leaders, from Ataturk to Mandela, illuminate the tricky navigation of political transition, so urgently needed in today’s roiling world.”

Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Management, University of Southern California, author of Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership

“Compelling, straightforward, and accessible, Transformative Political Leadership brings the insights of leadership studies to bear on the challenges of nation builders in the developing world. The result is a very thought-provoking addition to the field of development that is sure to stimulate healthy controversy.”

William Ascher, Claremont McKenna College

Refreshingly different, compelling, and confident. That institutions matter for good governance and economic success is widely believed among political scientists and economists, but how to transition from bad to good institutions is the trillion dollar question. It is here that Rotberg gives hope to the hopeless: when institutions are weak and incentives are sufficiently fluid, the right kind of political leader can usher in the institutions that sustain long-run success.

Public Choice

"Drawing on firsthand experience in the Global South, Robert I. Rotberg makes a strong case for compelling, enlightened political leadership in developing countries, where transformative rule has mostly been lacking since independence. Such effective leaders must possess high degrees of analytical, political, and, in particular, emotional intelligence, which involves the ability to empathize. . . . Recommended."


“Robert Rotberg’s Transformative Political Leadership is a distinguished addition to the literature. Drawing on his extensive experience in the developing world, Rotberg illustrates transformative leadership with four compelling cases: Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Serfetse Khama in Botswana, Lee Kwan Yew in Singapore, and Kemal Ataturk in Turkey.”

Political Science Quarterly

Table of Contents


1. Political Leadership, Governance, Political Culture, and Political Institutions
     Political Leadership
     Political Culture and Political Institutions

2. Compelling Political Leadership: The Critical Competencies
     The Differences Leaders Make
     Emotional Intelligence
     The Core Competencies
          The Vision Thing
          The Mobilization Momentum
          Being Legitimate
          Gaining Trust
          The Enlarged Enterprise
     Tapping into Authentic Needs
     The Contribution of Charisma
     The Cases

3. Nelson Mandela: Consummate Inclusionist     
      A Manifest Destiny
      A Mass Leader Arrived
      Maturing as an Activist
      “An Ideal for Which I Am Prepared to Die”
      “I Will Return”
      Donning the Green Jersey

4. Seretse Khama: Resolute Democrat       
      A Traditional Heritage
      “A Very Disreputable Transaction”
      “Slow and Steady” 
      Noblesse Oblige
      Dirt-Poor and Principled
      “Democracy Must Be Nursed and Nurtured”
      Prudence, Morality, and Competence
      To Build a New Nation

5. Lee Kuan Yew: Systematic Nation-Builder      
      Born to Lead
      The Singapore Express
      “Lee . . . Is the Only Man”
      Getting Singapore to Work
      A First World Oasis
      Paying a Heavy Price
      The Coming of Institutions
      The New Confucianism

6. Kemal Ataturk: Uncompromising Modernizer     
      “Victory Is Mine”
      Only a Single Leader Would Do
      The Forced March to Modernity
      Off with the Fez
      The Commanding Vision
      Becoming Ataturk
      The New Turkey

7. The Crisis of Contemporary Political Leadership     
     The Founders and Their Successors
     The Crisis
     Despots and Tyrants
     Transactional Leadership
     Leaders Making a Difference
     Strengthening Leadership in the Developing World


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