This project addresses the research question: why do leaders of nationalist movements decide to pursue secession? The main hypothesis of this study is that the leadership style of the head of the nationalist movement determines whether or not he or she decides to pursue secession. A review of the relevant literature identifies that this question has not been adequately studied. In an effort to address this question, leadership decision-making literature, in particular leadership trait analysis, is applied to nationalist leaders. Three leadership styles were developed: the modified expansionist style where the leader will decide to pursue secession no matter what the circumstance; the modified opportunist style where the leader will decide to pursue secession if the majority of the nation wants to secede; and the accordant style where the leader will decide to not pursue secession without exception. These styles are tested by coding interview responses for three nationalist movement leaders: Alex Salmond of Scotland, Artur Mas of Catalonia, and Kris Peeters of Flanders. After analyzing the data of the personality trait scores, the findings are inconclusive because of methodological difficulties and assumptions that proved to be incorrect. Changes need to be made and further experiments should be conducted to come to conclusive results; however, this study does add information to scholars’ knowledge on this topic.


Kille, Kent

Second Advisor

Marsh, Kevin


International Relations


International Relations | Political Science


Nationalism, Nationalist Movements, Leaders, Leadership Style

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2014 Leigh C. Huffman