The new public leadership challenge: rediscovering or creating collective leadership values

International Journal of Leadership in Public Services

ISSN: 1747-9886

Article publication date: 4 November 2014



Brookes, S., Edwards, G. and Dunn, M. (2014), "The new public leadership challenge: rediscovering or creating collective leadership values", International Journal of Leadership in Public Services, Vol. 10 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The new public leadership challenge: rediscovering or creating collective leadership values

Article Type: Guest editorial From: The International Journal of Leadership in Public Services, Volume 10, Issue 4.

This special edition could not be timelier. This final issue of Volume 10 marks the transition from the current International Journal of Leadership in Public Services (IJLPS) to the future International Journal of Public Leadership (IJPL), which begins its relaunch in Volume 11 in 2015. One of the reasons for the change of both title and emphasis of the journal is quite subtle; it is more about leading in the public interest rather than the leadership of public services. The challenges presented to public leaders have become quite stark and "public" as a result of the financial crisis from 2008 onwards. There is an increasing acknowledgement that leading in the public interest is not just about the leadership of public services but, rather, is about leading across all sectors and not just those traditionally viewed as public services. Crossing boundaries is not just desirable, but essential.

Public leadership is a value-laden concept in which public value is viewed as its overall outcome. Collective leadership is thus of central importance in managing what will inevitably emerge as competing values on the journey towards shared values. This special edition is based on a panel convened at the eighteenth conference of the International Research Society for Public Management (IRSPM). It explores how public leaders can encourage more meaningful engagement through the utilisation of new channels of leadership based on collective values. The last 20-30 years has seen a preponderance of performance management regimes that have stifled both innovation and interventions in favour of quantitative approaches to management. Changing relationships among the public, private and nonprofit sectors will play a key role in bringing collective values to the fore in creating public value. Public leadership has potential in supporting this shift in mitigating the failures of new public management.

The special edition asks two key questions concerning the challenges facing public leaders. The first is whether contemporary crises of leadership (so often identified in recent occurrences) are more to do with the selfish and egoistic motivations of individual leaders rather than a failure of leadership per se. Two papers explore this. The first paper calls for the stewardship of public service renewal and reform and argues that public service behaviour cannot be predicted. The paper suggests that currently, "collaborative leadership" prevails in thought and practice over the so-called "transformational leadership" of the New Public Management era and that innovation and stewardship are important at times of uncertainty. The second paper then argues for a shift towards principle-based leadership that incorporates selflessness as its foundation and questions whether many leaders can move beyond selfish motivations and behaviours. In a historical literature review, the paper suggests that we need to rediscover some of our lost values of leadership. A framework for developing a greater sense of collectiveness based on a principles framework is presented, briefly supported by emerging findings from empirical research.

The second question asks to what extent conflicts between individual, organisational and shared values have a detrimental impact in tackling public leadership challenges and problems. The next two papers provide a foundation for exploring this further from within two differing policing perspectives. The third specifically investigates the roles of power and transformational leadership in Public Organisations. Located within a study of German police officers currently in training to fill leadership positions in the police force, it provides an interesting insight into the influence of power on leadership style in a public organisation characterised by clear hierarchical structures and bureaucratically determined control. The fourth and final paper continues this theme by examining how a police-led multi agency partnership in the UK is tackling the wicked problem of domestic abuse in a major city against a background of public service reform. The partnership has sought to create new channels of leadership using a model of a coordinated community response and the paper analyses this through a new public leadership framework.

The importance of values is a critical component of all four papers within this special edition. The first paper asks, "Do public managers have the right leadership competencies and values for the challenges they face?" The second suggests that values-based leadership is highly relevant to the challenges facing public leaders, whereas the third argues that transformational leadership goes above and beyond transactional leadership in communicating values and vision throughout the organisation. Finally, the fourth paper argues that the extreme financial savings being made by the government is limiting innovation. It points to the opportunity for creating public value and suggests that a new Public Leadership approach would provide the best model for success.

This optimistic conclusion is a good point at which to conclude this final issue of the current journal. We hope that this will encourage more authors to consider the challenges that lie ahead in creating shared values not just within the traditional public services, but across all sectors and society at large. As Nasir et al. (2013, p. 16) argue, the concept of "boundary spanning" is like "knitting smoke", but surely it is not an impossible ideal?

Dr Stephen Brookes - Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

Dr Michael Dunn - University of Cranfield, Cranfield, UK

Dr Gareth Edwards - University of the West of England, Bristol, UK


Nasir, L., Robert, G., Fischer, M., Norman, I., Murrells, T. and Schofield, P. (2013), "Facilitating knowledge exchange between health-care sectors, organisations and professions: a longitudinal mixed-methods study of boundary-spanning processes and their impact on health-care quality", Health Serv Deliv Res, Vol. 1 No. 7, pp. 1-169

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