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Leadership in Local Government Organizations in Lithuania and Germany

Contingency, Behavioural and Evolutionary Perspectives on Public and Nonprofit Governance

ISBN: 978-1-78560-429-4, eISBN: 978-1-78560-428-7

Publication date: 6 November 2015



The general aim of this chapter is to scrutinize implicit assumptions regarding leadership in the public sector entailed in the normative concept of “good governance.” We draw on the concepts of leadership substitution (Kerr & Jermier, 1977), managerial leadership activities (e.g., Bass & Avolio, 1994), and demands for leadership (Blom & Alvesson, 2014). In our empirical study, we explore fine-grained processes of leadership in several local government organizations, including everyday decision-making and social interactions.


A qualitative study was conducted on the basis of 21 interviews with middle- and lower level managers and their subordinates in five municipal departments in Germany and three in Lithuania.


The results suggest that everyday leadership processes can be considered as the coexistence of leadership substitutes and leadership interventions, initiated by the leaders and their subordinates. Such leadership substitutes like routines, laws, and instructions turned out as particular important constituents of leadership processes.

Research Implications

Results of our study open several new avenues for further research on governance and leadership in local governance organizations. First, future research can proceed with a re-conceptualization of leadership in the context of local governance by drawing on the follower-oriented approaches of leadership and governance. Particular focus on tensions, conflicts, and struggles as well as on the interrelationships between different hierarchical levels of public administration could represent a fruitful extension of our study. Second, the institutional and country-based contexts of local government systems should be taken into account more explicitly while studying leadership practices.

Practical Implications

In terms of implications for practice, the results of the study call for an explicit consideration of the everyday activities while implementing “good governance.” Considerations of leadership as process of daily interactions between leading persons, subordinates and codes, structures, process rules, and management instruments should become a necessary element of such concepts, otherwise, important aspects of a “good governance” would be ignored and couldn’t be realized.


Our study contributes to the behavioral perspective of governance structures in the public sector by providing empirical insights from local government contexts and by re-conceptualizing governance and leadership processes. Instead of a merely reductionist concentration on managerial positions and persons, we propose a social-constructionist view on governance that allows for a more fine-grained, context-sensible perspective on governance in the public sector. Concretely, we call for a conceptualization of micro-level governance structures and processes mainly as a result of ongoing order-maintaining and order-negotiating processes between supervisors and subordinates, accompanied by institutions of leadership substitution and interventions from leaders and subordinates.



Rybnikova, I., Toleikienė, R., Lang, R. and Šaparnienė, D. (2015), "Leadership in Local Government Organizations in Lithuania and Germany", Contingency, Behavioural and Evolutionary Perspectives on Public and Nonprofit Governance (Studies in Public and Non-Profit Governance, Vol. 4), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 217-245.



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