Public and Third Sector Leadership: Experience Speaks

Joyce Liddle (Aix-Marseille University, Aix en Provence, France)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 10 August 2015




Joyce Liddle (2015), "Public and Third Sector Leadership: Experience Speaks", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 11 No. 3/4, pp. 197-198.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

As the title suggests, the editors of this book have drawn on the experiences of a cross-section of public and third sector leaders to provide vignettes of some of the distinctive and immense challenges each faces. The editors have long standing and senior experience in both academia and the world of practice. Therefore, both are eminently qualified to produce a book that not only fills a huge gap in the leadership literature, but satisfies their personal ambition to provide a platform and give voice to senior leaders in hitherto overlooked, but nevertheless, significant sectors of the economy.

I enjoyed reading this book immensely, and it has very many strengths, not least its unique collection of personal and reflective narratives from senior people in varied contexts. Each contributor had the opportunity to examine the challenges they faced in their particular role, and reflect on how they were able to meet such challenges. What was especially good about each contribution was that the editors had clearly given a strong steer on the overall purpose of the collection, but each leader was able to give some thought to their own leadership style and how it had developed over time. The overall impression gained was that each leader was happy to reflect on practice and record their particular leadership approach.

Another key strength was a very strong introductory chapter in which the editors provide an excellent rationale for the production of “yet another” leadership text. In the following chapter they give a thorough overview of the massive field of leadership studies, including theoretical and methodological developments, key authors, leadership approaches, key philosophies/definitions and how theory and practice are juxstaposed. Prior to the personal narratives of each leader, the editors give separate overviews of the public and third sectors, and these chapters again offer a strong rationale on why leadership in these sectors is important. The earlier parts of the book, those chapter on public and third sectors, and the conclusive chapter are essentially where the editors strong credentials and long experience in the academic/practice worlds really show. Throughout these sections there are numerous figures, tables, illustrations, drawn from a lifetime of research and practice, and used to flesh out some of the key elements of this significant field of enquiry.

Each individual voice is then allowed to speak about their role, and interesting though they all were, I did think that perhaps the editors had included too many chapters. I did start to flag a little after reading all the narratives, and the editors might like to reflect on just how many specific chapters are needed to make certain points or illustrate key arguments. For each leader their own approach and style is, of course, crucial to them, and obviously drawing out the key aspects of leadership is valuable to a wider academic and practice audience.

Having identified a small weakness in the overall coverage and pagination, I must say that the very best element of this unique collection is the way in which the editors were able to read and synthesise a massive amount of written information in each essay and produce, at table 3.1, a summary of the experiences, perceptions, means, challenges and sectors. This was no mean feat given that it stretched to 11 pages, and in itself could provide a strong academic paper, as a separate contribution to the field of leadership studies. It really was an excellent synthesis of a diverse data set, so both editors must be congratulated for this particular element of the overall collection, as well as the rest of the book.

In conclusion, I would recommend that this book is placed on key reading lists for courses in leadership, public and third sector management, and management programmes more generally. It will also appeal to post graduate and post experience programmes and to students undertaking doctoral research in these fields. It is a welcome addition to a multi-disciplinary leadership world, because unique as it is, it also has a clarity that is generally missing in such texts. The format is also different from the usual leadership texts, and it is refreshing to read about leadership that is not solely focused on the corporate world. Anything that raises the profile of the significance of public and third sector leadership; both essential, though largely ignored, elements of the national economy, has got to be a good thing, in this reviewer’s opinion. I commend this book as a good buy and as one of the first ones to bring theory and practice together effectively through the voices of contemporary academics and practitioners in public and third sectors.

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