Dr. Vladimir Chlouba standing by an entrance to Jepson Hall

Meet Dr. Vladimir Chlouba

September 21, 2023

A Q&A with a new assistant professor of leadership studies

Vladimir Chlouba researches traditional leadership in sub-Saharan Africa and the conditions that underpin political order in weak states. He received his doctorate in political science at The Ohio State University. Prior to joining the faculty of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies in 2023, he was a visiting fellow at the University of Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies. There he explored how norms that developed in precolonial African states continue to shape ordinary Africans’ attitudes toward politics today.

How did you become interested in political science, specifically in politics and governance in sub-Saharan Africa?

I was born in the Czech Republic in 1991, two years after the demise of the country’s communist government. Everything was changing very quickly at that time. I could do things my parents couldn’t, and one of the things I wanted to do from an early age was travel.

When I was 17, I came to the U.S. for the first time to attend high school in a small town south of Seattle on a yearlong exchange program. A couple of years later, I returned to the U.S. to attend Connecticut College. While I was a student there, I participated in a study-abroad program in Namibia. There I got my first exposure to African politics, a subject rarely taught in European high schools. Once I started studying it, I realized how much more I had to learn, and that in itself fascinated me.

What is the current focus of your research?

My research explores traditional leadership in Africa—how African traditional leaders govern their communities and why ordinary citizens follow their leadership. Most people are familiar with autocratic leadership: Authoritarian leaders like Putin use punishment and fear to govern. Charismatic leaders, on the other hand, use their communications skills. Legal-rational leaders, such as U.S. presidents, wield influence based on the office they hold.

When you visit a rural African village, however, you often don’t see examples of autocratic, charismatic, or legal-rational leaders. Instead, you might see a traditional model of leadership where chiefs, many quite old, govern by association with tradition. This type of leadership is not unheard of in the global north. For example, the British royal family derives much of its legitimacy from tradition. I actually think we can learn a lot about our own leaders by studying traditional leadership in Africa.

What excites you about joining the Jepson School and the University of Richmond?

University of Richmond students are super impressive. Teaching passionate, engaged students is really rewarding. I also enjoy the interdisciplinary nature of the Jepson School, because my research touches on a number of disciplines, including political science, anthropology, sociology, economics, and history.