T01P02 - Theory and Practice of Leadership in Public Policy

Topic : Policy Process Theories

Panel Chair : Maria Tullia Galanti - tullia.galanti@gmail.com

Panel Second Chair : Gabriele Segre - g.segre@u.nus.edu

Panel Third Chair : MIchael Howlett - howlett@sfu.ca

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

Despite its importance for politics, leadership does not find a common definition across disciplines and that is quite difficult to operationalize in the public sector. On the one hand, the study of political leadership has been moving from the focus on the personal characteristic of leaders towards the attention to the functioning of leadership in institutions (Blondel 1987) and the different resources of leadership capital (Bennister et al. 2014). On the other hand, public administration and public management have focused on the characterization of public sector leadership, listing features for success (Fernandez and Rainey 2006) or showing possible application of different theories such as managerial, traditional, transactional, transformational, horizontal and ethical leadership (Van Wart 2013). While some studies on organizational reform propose to focus on policy leadership to understand the unraveling of change processes (Gleeson et al 2011), the space for leadership as a distinct function in the policy process seems quite restricted: for example, the frameworks on policy change do not account for leadership as they do for other concepts such as entrepreneurship. Nonetheless, it is quite trivial to notice that different kinds of leadership (political, bureaucratic, societal) can play a distinct role in policy dynamics. Still, the applications of the concept of leadership in public administration and public management suffer from conceptual and empirical problems (Tummers et al 2015; Chapman et al 2016), while is quite absent in public policy. Our panel would like to open a debate on the different concepts and applications of leadership in public management, public administration and public policy, in order to understand its usefulness for the study of the policy process, with a particular but non-exclusive focus on change processes. In so doing, the panel proposes to approach the issue of leadership in public policy by asking some questions:


Blondel J., (1987), Political Leadership. Towards a General Analysis, London: SAGE Publications.

Bennister M., T'Hart P., Worthy B. 2015.  Assessing the Authority of Political Office-Holders: The Leadership Capital Index. West European Politics  38(3): 417-440.

Chapman, C., et. al. 2016. ‘How Public Service Leadership Is Studied: An Examination Of A Quarter Century Of Scholarship’, Public Administration, 94, 111–128.

Fernandez, S., and Rainey, H. G. 2006. ‘Managing Successful Organizational Change in the Public Sector’, Public Administration Review, 66, 2, 168–76.

Gleeson, D., et al. 2011. ‘Negotiating tensions in developing organizational policy capacity: Comparative lessons to be drawn’, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, 13, 3, 237–263.

Tummers, L., and Knies, E. 2015. ‘Measuring Public Leadership: Developing Scales For Four Key Public Leadership Roles’, Public Administration, doi: 10.1111/padm.12224

Van Wart, M. 2013. ‘Lessons from Leadership theory and the Contemporary Challenges of Leaders’, Public Administration Review, 73, 4, 553–565.

Call for papers

The panel will welcome scholars interested in leadership from different academic fields, with the expectation to share research experiences and single out some common elements to build more consistent definitions and operationalisations of leadership. This will allow to offer an updated overview of the vast literature on leadership and to eventually propose a fresh approach to set a common ground for the understanding of leadership in the process of public policy. Scholars in disciplines such as theories of the policy process, public administration, public management, change management in the public sector, comparative politics, executive politics, party politics, social movements and transnational governance will be particularly welcomed.

Particular attention will be given to paper proposals that:

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