The Leadership Capital Index

What is Leadership Capital?

Political commentators routinely refer to political capital as the degree of popularity (measured usually through opinion polls or votes), mandate or momentum enjoyed by professional politicians and leaders. Politicians themselves often refer to political capital when comparing their capacity to mobilize people with others. Like financial capital they speak of it going ‘up’ or ‘down’ or ‘gained’ or, much more commonly, ‘lost’.

For example, Tony Blair spoke in his memoirs of how he tried not to ‘spend’ his authority in his early years as Prime Minister:

At first, in those early months and perhaps in much of that initial term of office, I had political capital that I tended to hoard. I was risking it but within strict limits and looking to recoup it as swiftly as possible… in domestic terms, I tried to reform with the grain of opinion not against it (Blair 2010: 123).

Leadership capital is the extent to which political office-holders can effectively attain and wield authority. Drawing on the concept of political capital, we define leadership capital as aggregate authority composed of three dimensions:

  • Skills-personal abilities of communication and vision, popularity
  • Relations-with party, the public and colleagues
  • Reputation of a leader-levels of trust, ability to influence policy

You can see the development of our ideas

Bennister, Mark and Hart, Paul ‘t and Worthy, Ben, Leadership Capital: Measuring the Dynamics of Leadership (December 15, 2013). Available at SSRN:

Bennister, Mark and Worthy, Ben, Getting it, Spending it, Losing it: Exploring Political Capital (April 12, 2012). Political Studies Association 2012 Annual Conference. Available at SSRN:

Leadership Capital Index (the LCI)

To measure this we have developed the LCI to help measure Leadership Capital across the three dimensions. Our idea is that this can be used to take a snapshot or examine a leader over time. Each criteria is measured on a 5 point scale. It is hoped the measured can be easily obtained from publicly available sources such as academic assessment and biographies or polling data.

Leadership Capital Index


  • Criteria Indicators
    S1 01 Political/policy vision
    S1 02 Communicative performance
    S2 03 Personal poll rating relative to rating at most recent election
    S2 04 Longevity: time in office
    S2 05 (Re)election margin for the party leadership
    R1 06 Party polling relative to most recent election result
    R1 07 Levels of public trust in leader
    R1 08 Likelihood of credible leadership challenge within next 6 months
    R2 09 Perceived ability to shape party’s policy platform
    R2 10 Perceived parliamentary effectiveness

    See the full index and an example of it in use here

One thought on “The Leadership Capital Index

  1. Pingback: Senior Lecturer Dr Mark Bennister publishes research exploring how to assess political leadership | Canterbury Politics and International Relations

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