Eva Knies (Utrecht University) and I developed a new article on how to measure public leadership. It has been published in Public Administration and is entitled “Measuring public leadership: Developing scales for four key public leadership roles”



This article on public leadership contributes to the literature by focusing on the ‘public’ aspect of leadership and developing quantitative scales for measuring four public leadership roles. These roles all refer to the extent to which public leaders actively support their employees in dealing with public sector issues: (1) accountability leadership, (2) rule-following leadership, (3) political loyalty leadership, and (4) network governance leadership. We tested the factor structure using exploratory and confirmatory analyses, with satisfactory results. Also, as expected, the scales for public leadership relate to transformational leadership and leadership effectiveness. The scales also correlate with organizational commitment, work engagement and turnover intention. These results indicate that our four scales of public leadership work adequately. We conclude with a future research agenda on how the scales can be used in survey and experimental research.


The scales

For an easy how-to-guide to use the public leadership scales, you can read this document.

We have developed four roles of public leadership behaviors, which are focused on supportive actions of leaders towards their employees. This is in line with approaches on ‘supportive leadership’, where leaders provide employees with emotional and instrumental support to perform various actions, such as following ethical guidelines (ethical leadership) or connecting to other people in other organizations (network governance leadership). Below, we shortly describe the roles. All have answer categories ranging from 1-5: strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, strongly agree.

– Accountability leadership (6 item scale)

Leaders who score high on ‘accountability leadership’ stimulate employees to justify and explain actions to stakeholders. For instance, a welfare director who encourages her employees to tell the press why they did not provide a welfare benefit to a certain citizen coul be said to score high on ‘accountability leadership’.

My supervisor …

  1. …Encourages me and my colleagues to explain our actions to various stakeholders
  2. …Stimulates us to inform stakeholders of our way of working.
  3. …Provides us with the possibility to explain our behavior to stakeholders.
  4. …Emphasizes that it is important that we answer questions from clients.
  5. …Strives to ensure that we are openly and honestly share the actions of our organizational unit with others
  6. …Stimulates us to explain to stakeholders why certain decisions were taken


– Rule following  leadership (4 item scale)

Leaders scoring high on ‘rule following leadership’ encourage their employees to act in accordance with governmental rules and regulations. An example is a school director emphasizing to the teachers that they should follow the exact regulations accompanying the upcoming SAT (a standardized test for students).

My supervisor …

  1. …Emphasizes to me and my colleagues that it is important to follow the law
  2. …Gives me and my colleagues the means to properly follow governmental rules and regulations
  3. …Emphasizes that my colleagues and I should carry out government policies properly
  4. …Ensures that we accurately follow the rules and procedures


– Political loyal leadership (5 item scale)

Political loyal leadership can be defined as leaders stimulating employees to align their actions with the interest of politicians, even when this is costly. An example: A director-general encouraging the civil servants of his directorate that they should implement the political decisions of the Minister, even when he and his employees see shortcomings.

My supervisor …

  1. …Encourages me and my colleagues to support political decisions, even when other stakeholders confront us with it
  2. …Encourages me and my colleagues not to jeopardize the relationship with political heads, even if that entails risks
  3. …Stimulates me and my colleagues to implement political decisions, even if that means additional responsibilities should be taken up
  4. …Encourages me and my colleagues to defend political choices, even if we see shortcomings
  5. …Encourages me and my colleagues to support political decisions, even when we see downsides


– Network governance leadership (6 item scale)

Leaders showing ‘network governance leadership’ encourage employees to actively connect with stakeholders. An example: A manager in a municipality stimulating her employees to go to various conferences and meetings for small and medium-sized businesses within the city, in order to make new contacts.

My supervisor …

  1. …Encourages me and my colleagues to maintain many contacts with other organizations
  2. …Encourages me and my colleagues to invest substantial energy in the development of new contacts
  3. …Stimulates me and my colleagues to regularly work together with people from our networks
  4. …Stimulates me and my colleagues to develop many contacts with people outside our own department
  5. …Stimulates me and my colleagues to introduce others to contacts of our own networks
  6. …Encourages me and my colleagues to be a ‘linking pin’ between different organizations

For questions about the scales, you can of course contact Eva Knies (e.knies@uu.nl) or me (tummers@fsw.eur.nl).

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