Need for improved understanding of public sector leadership


There have been a number of important studies on leadership in the public administration discipline. However, it still lags behind related disciplines such as business administration and psychology. Hansen and Villadsen (2010:247) recently concluded that, when compared to other disciplines, “leadership theory has generally received little attention in public management research.” In a recent literature review on administrative leadership, Van Wart (2013) is more nuanced, stating that there is substantial development. However, he also noted that “fragmentation and conflicting nomenclature continue to be a problem, but at a more sophisticated level” (2013:13). He argued that “well-designed studies would be welcomed by various public sector industries, jurisdictions, and levels of administration” (2013:17).

Note: above based on Tummers & Knies, 2014.

Together with other scholars, I aim to respond to this call for more well-designed leadership studies in the public sector. Below, I have indicated a) a number of articles on leadership which I have written with others, b) a selection of activities to improve the understanding of leadership in the public sector and c) some key books and articles on this important topic.


Two example articles on leadership

Tummers, L.G. & Knies, E. (2016). Measuring Public leadership: Developing Scales for Four Key Public Leadership RolesPublic Administration (forthcoming).

Tummers, L.G. & Knies, E. (2013). Leadership and meaningful work in the public sector. Public Administration Review, 73(6), 859-868.



Selection of activities on leadership

– Chairing IRSPM panel “Leadership”. Together with Prof. Montgomery van Wart, Prof. Lotte Bogh Andersen and dr. Mila Gasco I cochair this panel.

– Chairing Erasmus University ‘Public Leadership & Innovation Forum’, together with Stephan Dorsman.

– Attending conferences, presenting papers and developing articles on leadership topics

The activities are aimed to develop a joint research program on the topic of leadership and innovation, including international publication opportunities (such as special issues in international journals).


Interesting studies on public sector leadership

Boin, A., & Hart, P. T. (2003). Public leadership in times of crisis: mission impossible?Public Administration Review63(5), 544-553.

Borins, S. (2002). Leadership and innovation in the public sectorLeadership & Organization Development Journal23(8), 467-476.

Selznick, P. (1984). Leadership in administration: A sociological interpretation. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Terry, L. D. (1998). Administrative leadership, neo-managerialism, and the public management movement. Public Administration Review, 194-200.

Van Wart, M. “Administrative leadership theory: a reassessment after 10 years.” Public Administration (2013).