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Reimagining leadership – and its relationship with management – for the public sector

Don Dunoon (New Futures Pty Ltd, Sydney, Australia)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 9 May 2016




The purpose of this paper is to review and critique three conventional assumptions about leadership and put forward an alternative framing, with leadership presented as a distinct form of intervention in particular moments to management. The paper also presents a structure for supporting leadership action by individuals and groups as an alternate to management action, which is seen as the dominant form.


Reflects an elaboration and distillation of concepts developed by the author since an earlier paper on essentially the same topic, drawing on his 20-plus years’ experience as a leadership developer.


Although not an empirical account, the paper seeks to demonstrate how, when conventional but infrequently challenged assumptions about leadership are “peeled back”, a new way of understanding leadership, especially in connection with management, is revealed.

Research limitations/implications

Suggestions are offered as to how the concepts and tools presented here could be evaluated, including in comparison with established leadership frameworks.

Practical implications

Outlines three practices for supporting leadership action in public sector organisations. These practices are working from observation, attributing reasonableness (allowing that others are reasonable) and speaking with authenticity. Collectively, these are known as the OBREAU Tripod (with “OBREAU” comprised of the first two letters in each of the pivotal words, observation, reasonableness and authenticity).


Conceiving of leadership as a different form of in-the-moment action to management in a public sector context is a distinctive contribution to the literature.



Dunoon, D. (2016), "Reimagining leadership – and its relationship with management – for the public sector", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 94-111.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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