To read this content please select one of the options below:

Planners as leaders: finding their comfort zone

Bonnie J. Johnson (Urban Planning Program, School of Public Affairs and Administration, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 22 June 2018

Issue publication date: 2 July 2018




Planners are expected to leave leadership to elected officials. Yet, they are often asked to do more. Should planners lead? The purpose of this paper is to examine how leadership is seen in the profession and then outline major theories of leadership and planning.


Using content analysis, the major theories of planning and descriptions of what planners do from professional planning organizations’ codes of ethics from around the world are compared.


Results indicate that new ways of thinking about leadership (Group leadership, Servant, Adaptive, Authentic and Followership) can help planners find leadership styles that fit their comfort zones better than old leadership definitions emphasizing heroic individuals.


Existing literature regarding leadership in planning indicates that planners must run for office if they are to lead. This examination of planners’ codes of ethics and newer theories of leadership indicates they can be leaders and operate well within current ethical boundaries.



Johnson, B.J. (2018), "Planners as leaders: finding their comfort zone", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 155-178.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles