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Collective leadership is a distribution of power within an organizational structure.

Communist examples


See also: Generations of Chinese leadership

Collective leadership in China and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is generally considered to have begun with Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s, who tried to encourage the CCP Politburo Standing Committee to rule by consensus in order to prevent the authoritarianism of Maoist rule. CCP general secretary Jiang Zemin formally established himself as the "first among equals". This era of collective leadership has been said to end with Xi Jinping, following the abolition of term limits in 2018 under his tenure.[1]

Xi has taken deliberate steps to establish his personal dominance within the Chinese political system, effectively rising above his peers in the Politburo Standing Committee. He has done so by creating key bodies such as the National Security Commission, which holds sway over party, state, and military organizations. Furthermore, Xi heads the Small Leadership Group on Comprehensively Deepening Reform, a pivotal entity responsible for designing and executing various reform initiatives. His leadership of this group underscores his intention to personally oversee institutional reforms. Xi has also made it clear that he will have the final say in economic and financial matters, foregoing the tradition of shared responsibility with the Premier. Consequently, Xi's purview now extends to encompass military affairs, security, foreign policy, economic reform, state-building, economic policymaking, and social governance.[2] This concentration of power has led to concerns that Xi's actions might be undermining essential party norms and pushing China toward a more personalistic dictatorship, a notion reinforced by the party machine and state media's vigorous promotion of his image and authority through various channels such as publishing his speeches and writings, public appearances, and the creation of cartoons portraying him as a strong leader.[3]

Currently, the central authority of the Chinese government and CCP is concentrated in the CCP Politburo Standing Committee, which is composed of seven members of the Communist Party and headed by the CCP general secretary.[4]

The position of CCP general secretary has become more powerful in Xi Jinping's administration.[5]


In Vietnam, when the country was ruled by Lê Duẩn, collective leadership involved powers being distributed from the office of General Secretary of the Communist Party and shared with the Politburo Standing Committee while still retaining one ruler.

Nowadays, in Vietnam there is not one paramount leader, and power is shared by the General Secretary, President and the Prime Minister along with collegial bodies such as the Politburo, Secretariat and the Central Committee.

Soviet Union

Main article: Collective leadership in the Soviet Union

Collective leadership (Russian: коллективное руководство, kollektivnoye rukovodstvo) or Collectivity of leadership (Russian: коллективность руководства, kollektivnost rukovodstva), was considered an ideal form of governance in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Its main task was to distribute powers and functions among the Politburo, the Central Committee, and the Council of Ministers to hinder any attempts to create a one-man dominance over the Soviet political system by a Soviet leader, such as that seen under Joseph Stalin's rule. On the national level, the heart of the collective leadership was officially the Central Committee of the Communist Party, but in practice, was the Politburo. Collective leadership is characterized by limiting the powers of the General Secretary and the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Premier) as related to other offices by enhancing the powers of collective bodies, such as the Politburo.

Lenin was, according to Soviet literature, the perfect example of a leader ruling in favour of the collective. Stalin was also claimed to embody this style of ruling, with most major policy decisions involving lengthy discussion and debate in the politburo and/or central committee; after his death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev accused Stalin of one-man dominance, leading to controversy surrounding the period of his rule. At the 20th Party Congress, Stalin's reign was criticized by Khrushchev as a "personality cult". As Stalin's successor, Khrushchev supported the ideal of collective leadership but increasingly ruled in an autocratic fashion, his anti-Stalin accusations followed by much the same behaviour which led to accusations of hypocrisy. In 1964, Khrushchev was ousted and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev as General Secretary and by Alexei Kosygin as Premier. Collective leadership was strengthened during the Brezhnev years and the later reigns of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko. Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms helped spawn factionalism within the Soviet leadership, and members of Gorbachev's faction openly disagreed with him on key issues. The factions usually disagreed on how little or how much reform was needed to rejuvenate the Soviet system.

Directorial government

Main article: Directorial system

The Directorial system is a system of government in which executive power is held by a group of people who operate under a system of collegiality.[6] While there may be a nominal leader, the post is considered to be ceremonial or a first among equals and it typically rotates among its members.

Other party examples

Green and socialist parties often practice collective leadership, either through male and female co-leaders or through several co-spokespersons. This practice is often justified by the Green movement's emphasis on consensus decision making and gender balance.


  1. ^ Holtz, Michael (28 February 2018). "Xi for life? China turns its back on collective leadership". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  2. ^ Wang, Zeng, Zhengxu, Jinghan (April 28, 2016). "Xi Jinping: the game changer of Chinese elite politics?". Contemporary Politics. 22 (4): 469. doi:10.1080/13569775.2016.1175098.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Osnos, Evan. "Born Red". Profiles. The New York Times.
  4. ^ "New Politburo Standing Committee decided: Mingjing News" Archived 2013-01-15 at the Wayback Machine. Want China Times. 18 October 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  5. ^ Economy, Elizabeth C. (2018-04-04). The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-086608-2. OCLC 1048621221.
  6. ^ Popović, Dragoljub (2019-08-30). Directorial government. Edward Elgar Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78990-075-0.
  7. ^ "Party Profiles: People Before Profit/Solidarity". Ireland Elects. Archived from the original on 2022-11-27. Retrieved 2022-12-29.
  8. ^ Inc, IBP (February 7, 2007). Ireland Mineral, Mining Sector Investment and Business Guide Volume 1 Strategic Information and Regulations. ISBN 9781433025129 – via Google Books. ((cite book)): |last= has generic name (help)
  9. ^ Agency, Central Intelligence (May 8, 2018). The CIA World Factbook 2018-2019. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781510740280 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ "Ireland".

Further reading