Volume 48, No. 2 | Leadership in the public sector

Lotte Bøgh Andersen, Simon Calmar Andersen and Thomas Pallesen: Research in leadership effects on public service effectiveness: strengths, weaknesses and future perspectives

Research in public management and public leadership has intensified internationally and in Denmark. The article provides an overview of the impact of public management and leadership on outcomes for citizens. We focus on transformational leadership, which is one of the most prominent leadership approaches, the major strands in the formal structure-oriented management approach and finally the non-leader-oriented distributed and collaborative leadership literature. In the conclusion, we outline promising avenues for future management and leadership research in order to obtain more valid causal claims and more solid knowledge of the impact of the context of the studies.

Ulrich Thy Jensen and Christian Bøtcher Jacobsen: In the eye of the beholder? Leader and employee ratings of leadership across individuals, organizations, and service areas

Leadership has become an important topic in public management research, and most empirical studies of leadership apply measures based on survey responses by managers and employees. A consistent finding is, nonetheless, that there is great variation in assessments of leadership, and it has been suggested that these variations can be explained by factors on three levels: the individual level within an organization, the organizational level, and the sector level. However, there is very little empirical knowledge about variation at these levels, and the article therefore investigates how two important types of leadership – transformational leadership and transactional leadership – vary at these three levels. We apply survey data from 541 managers and their 8,515 employees, from eight different service areas. The analyses show that the main variation in leadership ratings is within organizations, but significant variation also exists between organizations and service areas. Finally, leaders rate their own leadership more favorably than their employees do

Louise Ladegaard Bro: Small, big or medium sized organisations? The associations between span of control, leader identity and transformational leadership in Danish daycare

Leaders of public organizations do not always have the same opportunities to lead. Depending on the size of the span of control, leaders might either find it difficult to effectively lead all individual employees (broad spans of control) or become so familiar with the employees and involved in the daily routines (narrow spans of control) that certain leadership strategies are hard to exert. Using quantitative data from the Danish daycare sector, this article finds that the levels of employee-perceived transformational leadership is greatest in medium-sized organizations (12-20 employees), and that the daycare leaders’ general leadership identity – as opposed to an identity as a pedagogue – explains the difference between organizations with narrow and medium-sized spans of control.

Camilla Denager Staniok: Co-determination as a road to goal commitment: managing Danish high schools

Goal-setting initiatives have become an integrated part of managing public organizations in Denmark. The purpose is often to align employee effort with managerial goal prioritization and to motivate all employees to work in the same direction. This is particularly important in public organizations where employees are met with multiple and conflicting performance demands. The question is, though, how managers can ensure that employees are committing to the same goal as the managers prioritize? Employee co-determination has a potential to foster and direct employees’ goal commitment by increasing the dialogue between managers and employees and by legitimizing managers’ goal prioritization. The role of co-determination has so far been neglected in studies of goal-setting initiatives. In this article a qualitative study of ten managers and employees provides a nuanced picture of what co-determination means in the Danish educational sector, and analyses of two parallel surveys of 73 principals and 1353 teachers show that employee co-determination has a significant positive effect on the association between principals’ prioritization of high school completion rates and the teachers’ commitment to this goal.

Mads Leth Felsager Jakobsen, Anne Mette Kjeldsen and Thomas Pallesen: Distributed leadership in public service organizations

During the past two decades there has been increased interest in collective or distributed forms of leadership within generic leadership theory and organizational psychology. “Distributed leadership” describes the sharing of leadership tasks between employees and managers with the aim to influence decision making, resource availability, and goal setting within an organization. This article introduces the concept of distributed leadership to the public administration literature and empirically examines the relevance of this leadership constellation for different public organization performance measures. Using survey and archival data collected at one of Denmark’s largest public hospitals, the analysis shows that hospital wards with high levels of distributed leadership also have employees who are more satisfied and innovative and who report higher levels of performance. Moreover, distributed leadership seems to be positively related with lower sickness absence among hospital employees. This indicates that distributed leadership is a relevant leadership constellation in public service producing organizations.

Lotte Bøgh Andersen, Anne Bøllingtoft, Martin Christensen and Ida Bøgh Hald: Leading change: dilemmas, challenges and lessons learned

How can public managers implement organizational change in organizations with very different users? This article presents and illustrates key insights from the change management literature, the literature on employee motivation and user capacity literature and the sociology of professions. The empirical case is a merger between two schools in Denmark. The theory expects public managers to be able to influence whether the changes are seen as transformational or incremental and to choose between proactive and reactive actions. Especially if they act proactively, a shared vision is expected to be important, but it can be challenging to secure ownership of this vision for professional employees with high public service motivation. The theory also expects that the establishment of common rules is challenging, when we are looking at changes involving very different users and in organizations with different cultures. All these theoretical insights are illustrated for a specific merger of two primary and lower secondary Danish schools.


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