‘Warriors, Rebels, and Saints’: Cultivating democratic leadership


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has demonstrated the importance of leadership in the country’s resistance, while Russia’s Vladimir Putin personifies leaders’ abuse of power, notes Democracy Paradox’s Justin Kempf. So it’s necessary to understand leadership to understand politics or even democracy.

But do leaders make history or does history make leaders? That’s the question Moshik Temkin asks in Warriors, Rebels, and Saints: The Art of Leadership from Machiavelli to Malcolm X

Sometimes people become a leader, even though they had no expectation of doing so, says Temkin, a contributor to the Journal of Democracy. They were in one particular situation and then the context changes and suddenly they find themselves responding to a political moment that is corresponding to their abilities or their background, he tells Kempf, citing the case of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti (above):

When he started out, he was a musician. He was just interested in jazz and funk and created Afrobeat. But when the context in Nigeria became politically fraught, people turned to him because his message was so powerful and resonated so much, especially with young people, that he found himself in a position of political leadership. It’s a very unusual trajectory that he had.

Fela may have been inspired by his younger brother, Nigerian democracy activist Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti (below), “a thorn in the flesh of the Nigerian ruling class for many years” as the head of the Campaign for Democracy – a NED grantee. Ransome-Kuti was sentenced to 15 years on charges of treason by a military tribunal, Stanford’s Larry Diamond told a Congressional hearing.

“His thin frame, spectacles and sometimes barely audible voice belie his charisma when denouncing tyranny,” said the NED’s Dave Peterson.

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