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

Consuelo Thiers*, Leslie Wehner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article 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. It examines Boris Johnson’s and Nicola Sturgeon’s diverging initial responses to the pandemic’s onset. We employ the Leadership Trait Analysis 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
Pages (from-to)517-534
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Issue number3
Early online date19 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Boris Johnson
  • COVID-19 crisis
  • leadership styles
  • Leadership Trait Analysis (LTA)
  • Nicola Sturgeon
  • personality traits
  • United Kingdom


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