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India’s District Collectors as administrative entrepreneurs: myth or reality?

Harish P. Jagannath (School of Policy and Governance, Azim Premji University, Bangalore, India)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 29 November 2017

Issue publication date: 1 December 2017




The purpose of this paper is to understand the relationship between administrative entrepreneurship and bureaucratic (administrative) leadership in government bureaucracies.


This topic is empirically examined in the context of India’s district administration. A within-case analysis is conducted of a District Collector’s efforts to initiate change using a case study research methodology. Data from elite interviews, analyzed in NVivo 11, are used to draw descriptive inferences that are tested against a set of conditions using the process tracing technique.


The District Collector in the study aspired to be a transformational leader by demonstrating administrative entrepreneurship, but in reality due to the formal organizational structures, the style of bureaucratic leadership functioning is transactional.

Research limitations/implications

This study contributes to furthering public leadership theory as it opens up the classic question: what type of leadership is expected out of administrative leaders in government bureaucracies? This is a critical issue given that District Collectors are responsible for the welfare of one-sixth of the world’s population.

Practical implications

District Collectors need to get comfortable with the duality inherent in their position – that their organizational structures allow them to be both administratively entrepreneurial and rigid – and learn the art of navigating these complex structures. Public sector training academies for career civil servants need to engage with the subject of administrative entrepreneurship and leadership.


This is the first study, to the best of knowledge, to develop an analytical typology that can be used as a diagnostic tool for administrative leaders to holistically assess their leadership style.



The author is thankful to Montgomery Van Wart at California State University, San Bernardino for his valuable comments on an earlier draft of this paper. For their helpful reflections on the subject, the author is grateful to the Graduate Student Srilekha Ati at the School of Policy and Governance, Azim Premji University, the colleagues and the public officials the author met during the time at the Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad. For his guidance, the author is grateful to David M. Van Slyke at the Maxwell School, Syracuse University. The author would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback.


Jagannath, H.P. (2017), "India’s District Collectors as administrative entrepreneurs: myth or reality?", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 13 No. 4, pp. 260-275.



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