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Institutional design for collective and holistic political leadership

Jacob Torfing (Department of Social Sciences and Business, Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark)
Eva Sørensen (Department of Social Sciences and Business, Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark)
Tina Ollgaard Bentzen (Department of Social Sciences and Business, Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 21 February 2019

Issue publication date: 21 February 2019

581

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to study and assess the content, functioning and impact of institutional reforms aiming to enhance collective and holistic political leadership at the level of local government.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conduct a comparative case study of two Danish frontrunner municipalities drawing on relevant documents and qualitative interviews with both elected politicians and public administrators.

Findings

The authors found that institutional design is effective in promoting collective and holistic political leadership at the local level, even if no formal design options are available and the municipalities have to invent their own designs. Support both from both councilors and administrators is paramount for successful implementation of local political leadership reforms.

Research limitations/implications

Due to the purposive selection of a limited number of cases, the findings cannot be generalized to the population from which the cases are drawn. However, other municipalities may learn from and become inspired by the positive impact of the new institutional designs on collective and holistic political leadership.

Practical implications

Whereas some institutional political leadership reforms aim to enhance the power of the mayor and other reforms aim to create a cabinet or a committee system, the reforms the authors are studying aim to create a space for local councilors to work together across party and sector lines in creating collective and holistic policy solutions. The study shows that it is crucial that local councilors are involved in cross-boundary agenda setting before developing policies in standing committees and endorsing them in the council assembly.

Social implications

There is a large amount of more or less wicked problems that require the formulation and implementation of innovative policy solutions, which, in turn, call for a clear and determined political leadership. However, local politicians typically suffer from decoupling and tunnel vision. The results show that these problems can be solved through new institutional designs that promote a more collective and holistic political leadership that can take the local community forward.

Originality/value

Few studies have hitherto addressed the need for institutional reforms enabling collective and holistic political leadership through both theoretical and empirical analyses, but that is exactly what the authors try to accomplish.

Keywords

Citation

Torfing, J., Sørensen, E. and Bentzen, T.O. (2019), "Institutional design for collective and holistic political leadership", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 58-76. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPL-12-2018-0059

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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