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Historians at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and VU University Amsterdam (VU) are examining the historical development of leadership in modern Dutch democracy (since 1960).

Historians at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and VU University Amsterdam (VU) are examining the historical development of leadership in modern Dutch democracy (since 1960). The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) have awarded this project a grant of € 65,000.

In today's democracy muchemphasis is placed on leaders and leadership. Up until now, a historical approach to this development has been lacking. Consequently, no attention has been paid to the implications for policy and the lessons which can be drawn with respect to improving government intervention. The researchers who will be studying these issues are UvA professor of Dutch history since the Middle Ages James Kennedy, UvA History PhD candidate Sjoerd Keulen and VU Political History PhD candidate Ronald Kroeze.

The researchers are interviewing leaders from the business world, government and politics who have been active in their fields in the last decades. In addition, they are analysing written sources such as newspaper reports: why were certain leaders held in esteem in a particular period? Which qualities of good leadership did a leader require in the eighties and which qualities do leaders need to fulfill today ? Furthermore, they are analysing (popular) scholarly literature: which guru books were popular in the past and now and which perception of good leadership is put forward?

Good leadership

The researchers suggest that with a historical approach one can discover that good leadership is constantly changing because it is a product of its time: every age demands its own leader. This runs counter to much (popular) scholarly literature which presents an ideal leader. Civil servants can also respond better to seemingly fickle leadership if they are taught to be more historically conscious. To complete their research the historians will give a training course to top members of the Dutch civil service in cooperation with the Management Development Bureau of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.