ATS3903 - Leaders, power and politics - 2019

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

Politics and International Relations

Chief examiner(s)

Associate Professor Paul Strangio


Associate Professor Paul Strangio

Unit guides



  • Second semester 2019 (On-campus)


Twelve credit points of second-year Arts units. It is highly recommended that students only take this unit after they have completed two gateway units in Politics.




Leadership is indispensable to politics. Yet leadership is a problematic concept within liberal democracies that have traditionally set out to devolve authority and check against concentrations of power. This unit explores political leadership within liberal democracies using Australia (prime ministers) and the United States (presidents) as its primary empirical reference points. It examines how political leadership has been theorised from classical to contemporary times, including the application of psychology to understand the motivations and classify the behavioural repertoires of leaders. The unit considers how leaders are constrained by context ('the times') and institutional settings. It asks whether leaders make history or are prisoners of it and why certain leaders become associated with transformative change. The unit also explores two of the fundamental functions of political leaders: persuasion and decision-making. It investigates whether it is possible to identify the qualities of successful political leadership. Finally, the unit takes stock of political leadership in the early twenty-first century: an era in which leaders have never seemed more central to politics and yet the challenges of leadership so great. Students will be given the opportunity to choose a leader on which to focus to explore the themes addressed in the unit.


Upon successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  1. discuss how liberal democracies have traditionally addressed the issue of leadership;
  2. explain some of the influential theories of political leadership, including the application of psychology to political leadership;
  3. evaluate debates about the role of individual political leaders and historical causation;
  4. analyse the major forces impinging upon the practice and challenges of political leadership in the early twenty-first century;
  5. apply theoretical understandings to a case study of political leadership;
  6. communicate research findings orally and in writing.


Within semester assessment: 70% + Exam: 30%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

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This unit applies to the following area(s) of study