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Viewpoint: governing the governance of the governors : Motivating accountability at the top of public organizations

Donald Nordberg (Business School, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK)

Evidence-based HRM

ISSN: 2049-3983

Article publication date: 13 May 2014




The purpose of this “viewpoint” is to consider developments in the governance practices in UK public organizations, showing how ideas from the governance of listed companies have translated into public bodies.


It discusses the literature of corporate governance and public service motivation and reflects it against practice evidenced in documentation for the UK Corporate Governance Code, codes for boards of different levels of public organizations, and both formal and informal evaluations of practice.


The use of independent, non-executives directors in public bodies encapsulates the tension in the private sector between the service role of directors and how they control managers. The paper gives a preliminary investigation of three public bodies, comparing how reform of their governance has affected tensions in accountability and director motivation. The changes involve greater emphasis on extrinsic goals, potentially at the cost of the intrinsic ones.

Research limitations/implications

The paper suggests avenues for future research, linking notions of the tensions between the service and control functions in corporate governance with the balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Practical implications

Directors in both public and private bodies face a need to hold at bay forces that push in opposing directions to accommodate demands for greater accountability while sustaining the altruism social mindedness.


The area of public sector boards is undergoing considerable change in the UK and this paper, although preliminary, is one of the few to examine the links to motivation.



Nordberg, D. (2014), "Viewpoint: governing the governance of the governors : Motivating accountability at the top of public organizations", Evidence-based HRM, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 114-119.



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