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    Universiteit van Amsterdam

    The influence of political

    leadership on public opinionA comparison of two Dutch politicians using leadership theory

    Job Cohen Emile Roemer

    MSc. Business Studies Intensive Programme, Leadership

    Lecturers : Prof. Dr. Den Hartog & Dr. F. Belschak

    Students : J.L. Ridderhof, 10162305

    S.A.F. Arts,10311408

    M.Y. Konter, 0463191

    I. Nijhuis, 6336701

    Date : 19 march 2012

    Word count : 4.768

  • 7/31/2019 Cohen vs Roemer Leadership 120318


  • 7/31/2019 Cohen vs Roemer Leadership 120318




    Summary 2

    Contents 3

    Introduction 4

    Emile Roemer & Job Cohen 5

    Emile Roemer 5

    Job Cohen 6

    Emile Roemer vs Job Cohen 6

    Theoretical framework 7

    Transformational leadership 7

    Charismatic leadership 8

    Comparison; Why Roemer is popular and Cohen is not 11

    The popularity of Emile Roemer 11

    The unpopularity of Job Cohen 12

    Discussion and Limitations 14

    Further Research 15

    Conclusion 16


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  • 7/31/2019 Cohen vs Roemer Leadership 120318



    Emile Roemer & Job Cohen

    In order to draw conclusions on whether the leadership styles have positive or negative

    effects, the politicians who were chosen are opposites to each other in terms of public

    performance. This chapter introduces both politicians.

    Emile Roemer

    Emile Roemer, current political leader of the Socialistische Partij (SP), has done quite well

    since he was chosen party leader in March 2010. According to the latest public opinion

    records, he has managed to double the amount of SP voters since the new cabinet has been

    formed2. Since his appearance as party leader, the election program of the SP hasnt

    undergone major changes3. This implies that the designation of Roemer may have had a

    positive influence on the voters political choice4.

    In December 2011 Roemer was declared politician of the year by the public5. He is

    described as authentic, social and respectful. His clear language and his sense of humor is also

    well appreciated. His always cheerful laugh and his Burgundian appearance seem to charm

    the people surrounding him.

    Not all of the recent glory of the SP is dedicated to Roemers smile and wave policy. Since

    the Euro crisis hit the Netherlands, the SP has focused on representing the voice of the Dutch

    citizens by outing their motto: Put the bill for the Euro crisis where it belongs6. The SP

    states its looking for a better way to fight the Euro crisis that the current cabinet is doing

    right now. One that doesnt involve negative effects for the least wealthy citizens of the

    Netherlands. By emphasizing on doing the right thing the SP focuses on the voters

    conscience. This empowering message combined with the charm of Roemer seems to be a

    very effective strategy in order to gain support.

    2Developments of political preferences. [online] available:

    3Politiek: Hoofdpunten verkiezingen 2010 SP. [online] available

    hoofdpunten-verkiezingen-2010-sp.html 4

    De week van Emile Roemer. [online] available

    5 Emile Roemer Politicus van het Jaar 2011. [online] available: De rekening van de crisis leggen waar die hoort. [online] available


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    Job Cohen

    Job Cohen, in contrast to Emile Roemer, resigned his position as party leader of the Partij van

    de Arbeid(PvdA) in February 2012 due to the recent decline in votes for the PvdA. According

    to Cohen himself, he wasnt able to be effective enough as party leader7

    .When Cohen first appeared as party leader in 2010, after his predecessor Wouter Bos left

    politics behind, the PvdA gained an enormous amount of votes. PvdA supporters were

    enthusiastic about this new fatherly figure, who was going to lead them during the

    upcoming elections8. The public had high expectations for Cohen due to his former

    performance as mayor of Amsterdam. The public opinion changed however at the start of the

    election period in 2010. Several times Job Cohen proved to be incompetent during interviews

    and debates with other party leaders. According to the media, his lack of humor during the

    interviews and his poor performance in front of the camera cost the PvdA a lot of votes9.

    After the elections were lost by the PvdA even more voters switched to another political

    preference, due to a number of media disasters in disadvantage of Cohen10

    . Geert Wilders,

    party leader of the Partij Van de Vrijheid (PVV), publicly called Cohen the premiers lapdog,

    while Cohen stood bewildered11

    . In oktober 2011 PvdA party chairman, Lilianne Ploumen,

    acknowledged to the media that there was a discussion within the party regarding Cohens

    leadership. Many assume that this internal disagreement in combination with the ever

    declining public support has lead to the resignation of Cohen on the 20th of February 2012.

    Emile Roemer vs. Job Cohen

    The characteristics of both Emile Roemer and Job Cohen are quite different to one another.

    According to the presented facts, Roemer seems to have a clear advantage over Cohen

    regarding his public performances. His behavior and appearance seem to have a positive

    effect upon both the public and the media, whereas Cohens clearly has a negative impact on

    both his personal and his political party image.

    7 Cohen: ik was onvoldoende effectief. [online] available: PvdA wordt met Cohen de grootste. [online] available

    Toe Cohen, overtuig nou. [online] available Job Cohen in het nieuws: van gedoodverfde premier tot grote gedoger van de premier. [online] available cohen2_pdf11 Wie is de grootste gedoger. [online] available.

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    Theoretical framework

    In this chapter we discuss two different theories of recent leadership styles; transformational

    leadership and charismatic leadership, because these styles can be applied best to political

    leaders. Den Hartog and Koopman (2001) write about the "new" leadership that it is often

    referred to as transformational or charismatic leadership. According to this statement it seems

    that there is no specific difference between transformational and charismatic leadership. Yukl

    (2006) compares these leadership styles and writes that even among scholars, there is

    disagreement on whether transformational and charismatic leadership can be used both at the

    same time. The term transformational leadership is often assigned to any form of effective

    leadership (Yukl, 2006). However, the essence of charisma indicates that a subordinate is

    dependent on the leader, for guidance and inspiration (Yukl, 2006). Research (Fiol, Harris, &

    House, 1999) suggest that charismatic leaders consistently use communication strategies to

    effect social change, a reason to distinguish these leadership styles.

    Transformational leadership

    Transformational leadership is explained differently in many articles, but Bass (1985)

    version of transformational leadership generated the most research, according to Yukl (1999).

    Yukl (1999) states that Bass (1985) definition of transformational leadership is primarily

    based on leader effects on subordinates and specific leadership behavior. Transformational

    leadership motivates followers to do more than they are expected to do and gives followers

    trust, admiration and respect for the leader (Yukl, 1999). Due to influence of transformational

    leaders, followers put organizational interest prior to their personal interest (Yukl, 1999).

    Yukl (2006) states that transformational leaders empower followers by making them less

    dependent. Therefore, significant authority is delegated to individuals, follower skills and

    self-confidence are developed, self-managed teams are created, sensitive information is given

    access to, unnecessary controls are avoided and a strong culture is build to support

    empowerment (Yukl, 2006).

    Transformational leadership includes four types of leader behavior (Yukl, 2006). First,

    idealized influence, which is behavior of leaders to arouse strong emotions and identification

    by followers. Secondly, intellectual stimulation is used by the leader to increase follower

    awareness of problems and to view them from a new perspective. Thirdly, individualized

    consideration is behavior to provide encouragement, support, and coaching to followers.

    Finally, inspirational motivation of leaders is behavior to communicate vision, using symbols

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    to focus effort of subordinates, and to model behavior. According to Conger (1991),

    formulation of a vision should be the first step to move from traditional mode of

    communicating to a more expressive, inspirational form.

    In transformational leadership the power of the spoken word is not yet appreciated enough

    (Conger, 1991). To inspire, impactful messages should contain six guidelines (Conger, 1991).

    First, framed missions should have appealing goals, values, and beliefs which have positive

    and culturally important meanings. To become inspirational, true beliefs in the purpose of the

    organization is crucial (Conger, 1991). Second, stories should be used to illustrate description

    of organizations goals, incorporating positive values. By framing a mission, descriptions

    should explain significance of the mission, why it has arisen, and why it will succeed, using

    metaphors, analogies, and stories. Fifth, various rhetorical techniques should be used

    communicating to audiences. Coaches can give feedback about which aspects an inspiring

    leader should improve for greater attention and for holding attention. Such coaches can even

    assist with paralanguage, selecting appropriate metaphors, and voice intonation. Finally, a

    transformational or inspiring leader should allow emotions to surface when speaking.

    Excitement and concerns should be showed. In conclusion Conger (1991) writes two

    additional points prerequisite for success. A speaker must be perceived being credible and

    possessing expertise, otherwise the message is unlikely to be believed. Another issue can be

    ethics, proper language skills can be misused and therefore followers should be aware of


    Yukl (1999) writes that research results often indicate transformational leadership as a

    positive leadership style. Both surveys and descriptive studies show that this leadership style

    is effective in various situations (Yukl, 1999). Research indicated that transformational

    leadership influenced followers positively on satisfaction, motivation, and performance (Yukl,

    1999). Yukl (2006) even states transforming leadership in a political setting to be appealing

    for moral values of followers, raising consciousness about ethical issues. Transforming

    leadership furthermore mobilizes energy and resources of followers to reform institutions

    (Yukl, 2006).

    Charismatic leadership

    Charismatic leadership is explained as an interaction between a leader and followers. This

    interaction results in (1) making the followers self-esteem contingent on the vision and

    mission articulated by the leader, (2) strong internalization of the leaders values and goals by

    the followers, (3) strong personal or moral (as opposed to calculative) commitment to these

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    values and goals, and (4) a willingness on the part of followers to transcend their self-interests

    for the sake of the collective (team or organization) (Shamir & Howell, 1999, p. 259).

    Charisma is often associated with powerful oratory and with top level key figures, for

    example political key figures (Den Hartog & Verburg, 1997). In media political leaders are

    increasingly exposed by views, oratory, and language (Den Hartog & Verburg, 1997). Den

    Hartog and Verburg (1997) also state that on the other hand other scholars assume this

    leadership style to be common at all management levels of organizations. When social

    distance is large between leaders and followers, followers depend more on verbal cues and

    knowledge of personal behavior of the leader is scarce (Den Hartog & Verburg, 1997). In

    these situations charisma is particularly strong (Den Hartog & Verburg, 1997). So, context

    plays a role in charismatic leadership effectiveness. Shamir and Howell (1999) state that

    charismatic leadership can be facilitated by context and inhibited by others.

    Shamir and Howell (1999) described several conditions under which charismatic leadership

    can be effective and more likely to emerge. It is stated that during crisis, stress, and

    turbulence, charismatic leadership emerges more and followers are more affected by this

    leadership style. Furthermore, this leadership style is likely to be more effective in

    psychologically weak situations and in dynamic organizational environments needing new

    strategies, markets, products, and technology. During early stages of organizations existence

    this style is likely to more effective as well and when situations are not easy to analyze. For

    example, in strategic planning or performing arts. When tasks are challenging and complex,

    and performance goals are ambiguous this style is supposed to emerge more and is more

    effective. In organic organizations, adaptive cultures, when new leaders are established and

    when they follow up non-charismatic leaders charismatic leadership positively influences

    effectiveness and occurrence. Furthermore, when organization values and believes are shared

    by its members, when looking at top level of organizations, and when moral involvement is


    This article of Shamir and Howell (1999) is based primarily on business organizations, but

    has much common ground for political leaders applying charismatic leadership. It is likely

    that when voters and economy, face crisis and challenging and complex political conditions,

    they prefer a charismatic leadership style as well. When a political leader follows up a not

    charismatic leader, voters probably prefer a charismatic leader since this phenomenon occurs

    in organizations as well. Shamir and Howell (1999) state that when believes and values within

    organizations are shared, followers charismatic leadership is more likely to be effective.

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    Within political parties, believes and values are shared, so charismatic leadership should be

    likely to be effective for politicians as well.

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    Comparison; Why Roemer is popular and Cohen is not

    The result of the elections of 2010 made the political party of Job Cohen (PvdA) the second

    largest party in that election with 30 seats. The political party of Emile Roemer (SP) won 15

    seats in that same election.12

    As of the 2010 elections both Job Cohen and Emile Roemer were

    the leaders of their political party, so it is to be concluded that the winnings of seats is in a

    large part due to them. Strikingly, many polls predict different outcomes if there would be

    elections today compared to the outcome of 2010. One of those polls predict 19 seats for the

    political party of Job Cohen and 32 seats for the political party of Emile Roemer.13


    polling agencies and researchers seem to suggest that the change in seats is for a large part

    due to the leadership of Job Cohen and Emile Roemer.

    The popularity of Emile Roemer

    Emile Roemer has been chosen as best politician of the year of 2011. In that election 37.000

    people participated which were for a large part party members, but he seemed to be popular

    outside his own political party as well. Emile Roemer was chosen due to his authenticity,

    social skills and respectfulness. People appreciate his clear language and he listens well.

    Furthermore he has a sense of humor which is appreciated in the Tweede Kamer.14


    Roemer is capable of using clear and appealing examples to position himself and his political

    party the SP15

    and it is perceived that this is the reason for his partys success these last few

    years. Considering Emile Roemers skills, he is regarded to be a transformational leader.

    Transformational leaders employ metaphors, analogies, and stories when speaking. It is a positive

    leadership style (Yukl, 1999) and this matches the leadership typology of Emile Roemer since his

    character is to be characterized as friendly, seemingly open with natural social skills which are

    presented with a certain exhilaration. He stands for his cause, but tries not to make matters more

    difficult than necessary. This makes him accessible en approachable most of the time, the harshness in

    his approximation is only to arise with substantive matters. His personal profile is larger than his

    political party profile which makes him able to cooperate with people outside of his political scope.

    Voters perceive him as a nice guy who you can trust.16

    These character traits fit aspects of the

    transformational leadership style where the leader arouses strong emotions, stimulates

    intellectually for his causes and doing so in communicating vision and using symbols. This type

    12Nederlandse Verkiezingsuitslagen 1918 nu at

    Maurice de Hondat Vandaag at Debatinstituutat at

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    of leadership gives followers trust, admiration and respect to the leader (Yukl, 2006) as Emile Roemer

    does. Due to the growing number of predicted seats, one might conclude that he has been able to

    transform people into not only believing in him but also in what he stands for. The SP is by nature a

    social political party since they stand for human dignity, equality and solidarity .17

    Due to this

    political program he might have convinced people to put organizational interest priority to their

    personal interest (Yukl, 1999) which is another characteristic of transformational leadership as well as

    charismatic leadership. In the theory of charismatic leadership the leader is able to create a willingness

    on the part of followers to transcend their self-interests for the sake of the collective (Shamir &

    Howell, 1999).

    The unpopularity of Job Cohen

    In contrast to Emile Roemer, Job Cohen is lower on the best politician list. Where Emile Roemer is

    ranked first, Job Cohen is ranked at the sixth place.18

    At this moment Job Cohen is no longer

    representing the PvdA. Job Cohen has been very capable as mayor and strived to become a very

    capable prime minister. Due to the electoral outcome, he had to position himself in the opposition. He

    was always regarded to be a serious man with integrity and great skills to spin messages. He has a

    strong sense of responsibility but he was unfortunately not strong in situations of exposure and the

    strategic conflict he was frequently in during his time in the opposition. Job Cohen is known for

    building bridges and appeared not to be a strong opponent. It seemed to be a mismatch to have him as

    a oppositional leader.19 Transformational leaders motivate followers (Yukl, 1999) and Job Cohen

    wasnt able to.

    He seems to be regarded as a forthright type of person but not strong enough for the political and

    media attacks in The Hague. He is supposed to be doubtful without strong views, carefully considering

    what to do next depending on what is happening around him. With his attempt to show who he is, he

    managed to create turmoil within his political party recently. Ironically, he tried to associate his

    political party with Emile Roemers political party too much. This instigated his party members to

    attack him and eventually to decide to not support him anymore.20

    In television appearances Job Cohen seemed to be stuttering and not able to eloquently use one-liners

    like his adversaries, like Emile Roemer, did. Job Cohen wasnt able to keep up with the speed and

    wittiness of present debates. Over time it was Emile Roemer who was perceived as the leader for the

    left flank in politics and not Job Cohen.21

    Job Cohen was not sufficiently effective for his role as great at Vandaag at at at at


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    oppositional leader.22

    In contrary to Emile Roemer, Job Cohen has not been able to associate to people

    outside of his political scope.23

    In transformational leadership, formulating a vision should be the first

    step to move from traditional mode of communicating to a more expressive, inspirational form

    (Conger, 1999). Job Cohen not being able to formulate a clear message when potential voters are

    watching, makes him unable to create a solid group of followers which does not make him a

    transformational leader. The formulation of a vision is supposed to be a first step to move from

    traditional mode of communicating to a more expressive inspirational form (Conger, 1991). Job Cohen

    seems to be stuck in that traditional mode of twenty years ago. A time in which he might have been a

    successful leader of the PvdA.24

    Both Job Cohen and Emile Roemer are perceived to be honorable men but only Emile Roemer

    appeared to be effective in incorporating this in his political actions and transcending it to his political

    party and followers. The theory on leadership explains what leadership is, provides insights on the

    methods leaders should use to convey their message and how to deliver this message to the public.

    Furthermore, it makes clear what the effect of a specific type of leadership, transformational and

    charismatic, should have on the public. The success of Emile Roemer is explained by researching the

    manner in which he has conveyed his message and the effect he has on the public. He was able to

    deliver his message so it inspires the public. He does so with communication but also with his

    presence. This makes him a transformational but also a charismatic leader.

    Regardless of the assumed pleasant characteristics of both Job Cohen and Emile Roemer, Job Cohen

    has not been able to translate this into the specific skills needed for the political arena. His results arepractically opposite to those of Emile Roemer. Where Emile Roemer was witty, respectful and

    someone who could be trusted, Job Cohen was not. He was slow in his replies and not able to produce

    lively argumentation to illustrate what he means. Furthermore, he was doubtful and eventually lost the

    trust of his fellow party members and followers. He lost this trust at the worst possible moment.

    Charismatic leadership is needed and effective during, amongst other things, crisis (Shamir and

    Howell, 1999). The economic crisis and dynamic political environment the Netherlands is in

    calls for a charismatic leader and Job Cohen has proved not to be one. at

    uiteindelijk-niet-om-mij.dhtml23 at at


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    Discussion and Limitations

    As Yukl (1999) describes, the transformational leader is a leader that is admired by his followers, who

    possesses the ability to give followers trust and gain their respect. Of the four archetypes described by

    Yukl (2006), the inspirational leader may best be applied to Roemer, who has gained popularity for his

    political party more and more recently by being an inspirational leader who is able to communicate

    his vision effectively, resulting in a best politician of the year award. On the other hand, none of the

    archetypes apply to Cohen. Although Cohen was regarded as a serious man with integrity and great

    skills to spin messages when he was mayor of Amsterdam, he lost all of these attributes when he was

    voted party leader. It is not unlikely to think that Cohen inspired followers with a sense of trust and

    hope for the future with his track record, during his campaign. This could have created a pressure of

    high expectations, that are hard to turn into successful leadership in an entirely different position. The

    theoretical framework does not take the aspect of followers expectations or preconceived judgmentsinto account, while they may have contributed greatly to their respective success or failure.

    While Roemer is praised for his eloquent manner of speaking in public and his catchy enthusiasm,

    Cohen was mainly known for the exact opposite. As Conger (1991) describes, successful

    transformational leaders inspire followers via impactful messages, a skill that has been

    underestimated. According to this theory, Cohens unpopularity could be explained because he simply

    wasnt a good public speaker. But then one may also conclude that the way a leader gets his message

    across is more important than getting the right message across. What if Cohen failed to interpret his

    followers opinions well, due to the changing and turbulent political atmosphere for example? An

    effect that has not been taken into account in the theoretical framework.

    According to Shamir & Howell (1999), such a changing and turbulent political atmosphere is a perfect

    environment for a charismatic leader to attract followers or gain popularity. Roemers strong passion

    for his beliefs and cause brought him more popularity among voters while Cohen failed to make a

    strong case for his beliefs or party program. While this may be attributed to the lack of skills required

    by a successful leader, the nature of the political parties may have contributed also. The SP (Roemers

    party) is an ultra social political party, while the PvdA (Cohens party) is a moderate social party. It

    might be easier to make a strong case and speak passionately about more extreme point of views than

    moderate views.

    The transformational and the charismatic leadership theories intertwine when it comes to the ability to

    reach people via speech. Den Hartog & Verburg (1997) agree with Conger (1991) by stating charisma

    is often associated with powerful oratory. In this case charisma and the ability to speak well in public

    are prominent factors that could explain the success or failure of the leaders we studied. But, as this

    discussion shows, the theories we used may not have covered all aspects that have contributed to

    Cohens failure and Roemers success.

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    Further research

    As indicated in the discussion of our research, several aspects might offer a better insight into

    our case. The leaders track record could explain success or failure, considering high

    expectations might influence voters trust when these are not met. In order to create acomplete picture, this aspect should be taken into account.

    It seems too easy to judge whether a leader gets a message across because he says it in the

    right way. That would mean he could say anything, and that would be fine with his followers

    all the same. The consideration whether his message is actually what the people want to hear

    needs to be accounted for.

    The nature of the political party may also influence the opportunity to practice charismatic or

    transformational leadership. As discussed, a more moderate social message may be more

    difficult to plead in a passionate way, than a more extreme message. At this point, its still

    unclear whether this can influence the public opinion towards a leader.

    Finally, it might be interesting to research the effects of both mens leadership styles on each

    others popularity. The possibility that Roemer became more popular because he was able to

    take advantage of Cohens worsening image, should be accounted for.

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    Our case shows that the success and failure of both political leaders may be attributed to aspects

    described by theories on transformational and charismatic leadership developed by different scholars.

    In this paper we attempted to provide an insight on how the leadership style of party leaders

    Roemer and Cohen contributed to the political preference of the public. Our research shows

    that the public appreciates the charismatic appearance Roemer possesses, resulting in his

    political party gaining a huge incline in popularity recently. A major attribute to his

    charismatic leadership is the turbulent and dynamic political weather Dutch politics is

    currently in. In accordance with Shamir & Howell (1999), the need for charismatic leadership

    to fill people with hope for the future and a passionate message was apparently greater than a

    leader with a calm and fatherly type of image. Key charismatic and transformational aspects

    of leadership are the ability to inspire people and speak to them in an appealing and eloquent

    way. Where Cohen is portrayed as stammering and unable to use effective rhetoric publicly,

    Roemer gained popularity by getting his message across in an inspirational way, maintaining

    his followers and reaching voters. Also, his authenticity, social skills and respectfulness

    earned him the politician of the year award. A clear sign that Roemer is appreciated by

    followers and fellow politicians. While Roemer became more popular, Cohen struggled more

    and more getting his message across to both his followers and his own party, resulting in his

    fellow party members questioning their trust in him as a leader. Eventually leading to his

    resignation as a party leader of the PvdA.

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