Rethinking Leadership in Public Organizations

Jean-Louis Denis, Ann Langley and Linda Rouleau

in The Oxford Handbook of Public Management

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780199226443
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Business and Management C

 Rethinking Leadership in Public Organizations

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  • Business and Management
  • Public and Nonprofit Management
  • Organizational Theory and Behaviour


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The notion of leadership has a long history in the administrative sciences and in popular management writings. Leadership is at the heart of what seems to make things happen in groups, organizations, or societies. This article first provides an overview of some of the dominant conceptions of leadership in the scholarly literature on organizational behavior and management. It then examines previous treatments of this topic in the public administration literature before offering three alternative conceptions that merit further development. These conceptions are grounded in a series of novel developments in sociology and organization theory that can enrich thinking about leadership in public organizations because they recognize the pluralistic nature of the organizational context within which the leaders of public sector organizations operate as well as the dynamic and collective nature of leadership processes in these settings.

Keywords: public organizations; organizational behavior; organizational management; public administration; public sector organizations; leadership processes

Article.  9446 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management ; Public and Nonprofit Management ; Organizational Theory and Behaviour

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