Britain’s COVID-19 battle: The role of political leaders in shaping the responses to the pandemic

Consuelo Thiers, Leslie Wehner

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This paper introduces an analytical framework to trace and compare leaders’ different types of behaviours to the health crisis posed by COVID-19, following the analytical benefits of Leadership Trait Analysis (LTA). It examines Boris Johnson’s and Nicola Sturgeon’s diverging initial responses to the pandemic’s onset. We employ the LTA to shed light on three main differences in their respective leadership styles: risk-proneness versus risk-aversion; flexibility versus rigidity; and rule advocacy versus rule ambivalence. Crises are one of the more fruitful situations in which to study leaders as their personal characteristics become central to the decision-making process. Thus, we employ an agent-centred and political psychology approach to analyse leaders’ behaviour and make sense of their divergent management styles. The results show that the differences between these leaders’ approaches to handling this global health crisis can be partly explained by their level of openness to information and their task versus relationship focus.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Publication statusAcceptance date - 31 Jan 2023


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