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Elected mayors in England: leaders or managers?

John Fenwick (Business School, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Howard Elcock (Department of Social Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 14 November 2016




Philosophers and political scientists have a long history of dealing with the difficult puzzle of leadership, and how it is to be distinguished from management and administration. The purpose of this paper is to explore the question of whether the innovative role of elected executive mayor in England can be considered as leader or manager. The paper critically assesses the concept of leadership before using empirical evidence to come to conclusions about the current role of elected mayor, an office with an uncertain history and unclear future in English public sector leadership.


The paper draws from the authors’ qualitative interviews with mayors from the inception of the office to the recent past.


The study finds that elected executive mayors are both leaders and managers, but that the notion of leadership in the local public sector remains contested as the mayor is a part of a bureaucratic structure of administration which limits the exercise of leadership as outlined in the existing literature.

Research limitations/implications

As central government continues to advocate the expansion of the office of mayor, not least as part of English regional devolution, the study relates to future practice and to overall understanding of just what elected mayors do.

Practical implications

The paper provides useful insight into the forthcoming expansion of the mayoral system into the new Combined Authorities.


The paper provides original evidence about the faltering progress of the mayoral system in the English public sector.



Fenwick, J. and Elcock, H. (2016), "Elected mayors in England: leaders or managers?", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 289-300.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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