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Inter-sector senior leader transitions: experience and outcomes

Robert McLeay Thompson (School of Management, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Christine Flynn (School of Management, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 7 January 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the experience of senior leaders who move into the public sector from other sectors of the economy, a process referred to in this paper as inter-sector senior leader transitions. This is a little researched area of public sector leadership yet has significant implications for fundamental public sector reform.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper employs an interview design to elicit senior leaders' stories of their transition into the public sector.

Findings

The data suggest that successful senior leader transitions are more likely when a set of conditions is met; the leader transitions into CEO role, rather than levels below CEO, ministers provide inter-sector transition support, senior leaders develop responses to stress, senior leaders reject high formalization, their change processes focus on building capacity, and senior leaders confront dysfunctional organizational relationships directly.

Research limitations/implications

The research relies on a relatively small sample. However, access to senior managers at this level can be difficult. Nevertheless, those senior managers who participated were very willing to share their stories.

Practical implications

If public sector organizations are to realize the value of successful leaders from other sectors, they need to invest in structured processes that facilitate the transition. A laissez-faire approach is not viable given the cost of such transitions.

Originality/value

The paper focuses on a little researched area of leadership experience which has significant implications for the development and change of the public sector.

Keywords

Citation

McLeay Thompson, R. and Flynn, C. (2014), "Inter-sector senior leader transitions: experience and outcomes", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 85-93. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPSM-03-2012-0034

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited