Initially, governance networks were intended as tools for making public governance more effective. Yet, scholars have argued that governance networks also have the potential to democratize public governance. This article provides an overview of theoretical arguments pertaining to the democratizing impact of governance networks. It claims that the initial celebration of the pluralization of public governance and the subsequent call for a democratic anchorage of governance networks should give way to a new concern for how governance networks can strengthen and democratize political leadership. Tying political leadership to networked processes of collaborative governance fosters ‘interactive political leadership’. The article presents theoretical arguments in support of interactive political leadership, and provides an illustrative case study of a recent attempt to strengthen political leadership through the systematic involvement of elected politicians in local governance networks. The article concludes by reflecting on how interactive political leadership could transform our thinking about democracy.
- Political leadership