Leadership in the public sector

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Leadership is a very complex topic. On the one hand, everybody has some understanding of what leadership is and what makes it effective. On the other hand, there is a lot of uncertainty and dissatisfaction in public management practice. Public administrations are faced with a multitude of challenges, which makes leadership in the public sector even more complex.

Leadership is a phenomenon that is difficult to capture. Hence, there are many different definitions of leadership. In 1993, for example, Rost1 found different 221 definitions of leadership in 587 published studies.

Among the many definitions, I find one very helpful to describe the phenomena leadership. A group of 54 researchers developed it:

Leadership is „the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members.“2

  1. Rost, J. C. (1993): Leadership for the twenty-first century. New York: Praeger. ^
  2. House, R., Javidan, M., Hanges, P. und Dorfman, P. (2002): Understanding cultures and implicit leadership theories across the globe: an introduction to project GLOBE. Journal of world business, 37(1), 3–10. ^
Dominik Vogel
Assistant Professor of Public Management

I am Assistant Professor of Public Management at the University of Hamburg. My research focuses on the motivation of public employees, what makes leadership in the public sector successful, how citizens interact with public administrations, and how public organizations manage performance.


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