Leadership as zero-institution

Tuomas Kuronen, Aki-Mauri Huhtinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In this essay, we study the emergence and institutionalization of political leadership. Our empirical case is the presidential leadership of the former Cold War era President of Finland, Urho Kekkonen. Towards the end of his tenure as the president, which lasted for 25 years, his leadership became a “zero-institution,” in the same sense as articulated by Claude Lévi-Strauss. Kekkonen became an iconic figure in the society, whose status as the leader was never seriously challenged during his tenure. His private fishing ritual among his fishing “tribe” provided central content for his leadership mythology as an “able fisherman,” which he and his allies used for the purposes of furthering his political objectives. Along the emergence of his uncontested status in the society, the country’s “official line” in foreign policy became to be known as “Finnlandisierung” outside Finland; a culture in which a weak state yields to the demands of a stronger neighbor without direct military intervention. In light of this, we also discuss the potential of zero-institutions and similar “traumas” in association with the (ab)use of power in organizations and a culture of (self-)censorship.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalSemiotica
Issue number213
Pages (from-to)458-473
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 16.09.2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • 616 Other humanities
  • leadership
  • ritual
  • study of myth
  • Urho Kekkonen
  • zero-institution


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