Linking political and managerial leadership – a personal reflection

Goodwin Daniel (Local Government Association, London, UK)

International Journal of Leadership in Public Services

ISSN: 1747-9886

Publication date: 11 November 2013



This paper provides researchers and practitioners with a personal reflection on the nature of the relationship between politicians and chief executives in UK local government.


The paper sets the political/managerial relationship in context. It analyses the different motivations at play and the nature, similarities and differences of political and managerial leadership. It reflects on how these are interrelated using three key examples: a managerial crisis, a large capital project and longer term partnership working.


The paper concludes that if political/managerial relationships are to be successful two-way insight is required: for political leaders this is insight into the managerial and operational realities that the organisation addresses. For managerial leaders this is insight into the political realities that leading politicians face. This goes beyond what has been traditionally posed as an impermeable barrier between the political and managerial spheres in public service.

Research limitations/implications

The paper presents a personal view which has been triangulated with relevant leading politicians. Its analysis and conclusions are not tested in the light of a wider literature review. Further research is required to explore whether the suggestions of the findings would have validity in other contexts and how that might challenge traditional thinking about the nature of political and managerial leadership.


The paper is original because very little is written about the nature of the relationship between political and managerial leaders. It will have value for academics considering the nature of public leadership, politicians thinking about how they work with managerial leaders and vice versa.



The author is grateful to all the councillors and staff of St Albans City and District for their support whilst he was the council's Chief Executive. The author would particularly like to thank Councillors Robert Donald and Julian Daly, the political leaders during his time at the council, for the constructive working relationships that they were able to develop. All views contained within are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Local Government Association.


Goodwin, D. (2013), "Linking political and managerial leadership – a personal reflection", International Journal of Leadership in Public Services, Vol. 9 No. 1/2, pp. 59-64.

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