The contested nature of political leadership in the European Union: conceptual and methodological cross-fertilisation

Henriette Müller, Femke A.W.J. Van Esch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


European leaders have struggled to find common responses to the polycrisis the EU is facing. This crisis of leadership makes it urgent that scholars provide a better understanding of the role and impact of leadership in EU politics and policy making. This article prepares the ground for a collection of contributions that addresses this need by strengthening old and building new bridges between the academic domains of European studies and leadership studies. It opens with a discussion of the contested concept of leadership in the context of the European polity and politics, challenging the conventional view that leadership is necessarily a matter of hierarchy. Moreover, it argues that rather than leaderless, the EU is an intensely ‘leaderful’ polity. Subsequently, this introduction identifies four key debates in contemporary EU leadership research and discusses the value and insights the contributions in this special issue bring to these debates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1051-1071
Number of pages21
JournalWest European Politics
Issue number5
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019



  • EU institutions
  • EU leadership
  • European Union
  • leadership
  • leadership theory
  • research methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations

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