Local political leadership: from managerial performances to leaders-hip hop on social media?

Sancino, Alessandro (2021). Local political leadership: from managerial performances to leaders-hip hop on social media? International Journal of Public Leadership, 17(3) pp. 283–297.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPL-01-2021-0001


Purpose – The paper discusses the evolution of leadership practices performed by local political leaders in the last decade (2009–2019, a period which we might call post-global financial crisis and pre-COVID-19). It offers some new theoretical concepts to make sense of emerging contemporary public leadership practices, namely: leaders-hip hop; charismatic followership; and digital fabrication of charisma (digital charisma).
Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on a single case study, and it relies on qualitative data coming from multiple sources and collected at different points of time, specifically interviews, participant and non-participant observations from an ethnography conducted in 2009; interviews conducted between 2019 and 2020, and an analysis of the posts made within one Facebook group between February and May 2016.
Findings – The paper focuses on three stories of local political leadership at three different points in time which describe three leadership practices: political managerialism; charismatic followership; and hands-on relational leadership. It highlights the importance of hands-on relational leadership through popular acts of leadership which are performed face to face and/or on social media and the shift in the dominant technologies of local political leadership from the logic of managerialism toward the logic of social media.
Research limitations/implications – The paper is focused on a limited temporal (2009–2019) and sociocultural context (North Italy). Findings are presented as three stories, although other ways of showing qualitative data could have been used.
Practical implications – Practical implications deal with the attempt to enable a reflexive view of local governance and public leadership attentive to soft and sociocultural variables. It is important to consider these implications for the purposes of training and learning.
Originality/value – The paper introduces new concepts to understand contemporary public leadership practices; it combines insights from a decentered theory of governance and collective theories of leadership; and it makes use of storytelling as a method for analyzing and reporting the findings.

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