Fall 2014

Political Leadership

Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-109

Moodle site: Course


Ronald S. Tiersky (Section 01)


Political leadership can be a good and noble profession. But leadership can also be a position from which great damage can be done. Leadership in political life attracts various kinds of people and for various reasons. Some leaders live for politics; for them politics is a cause. Others live off politics; for those leaders politics is essentially a livelihood. Most leaders seem to enjoy the pleasures of power and influence, whether openly or hidden in their inner lives. Some leaders would refuse to trade their power even for significant wealth.

Leadership is necessary to all government—democratic, authoritarian and totalitarian governments, revolutionary movements and even terrorist networks. There seem to be certain general qualities of leadership and then there are those particular to a given type of politics. Understanding democratic leadership requires comparative thinking because it’s important to consider what democracy is not, as well as what it is. The paradox of a vibrant democracy is that it necessarily involves perpetual struggle between the people and the leaders, even if both want the public good. Citizens must be supportive yet vigilant; leaders must be effective yet accountable. Democracy is by nature self-contradictory and often frustrating, like life itself.

The course emphasizes improvement of student writing as well as an understanding of political life. 

Fall semester.  Professor Tiersky.


Writing attentive


2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014