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Public Leadership

Public Leadership: Perspectives and practices

Paul ‘t Hart
John Uhr
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Public Leadership
    Book Description:

    'Leadership' is routinely admired, vilified, ridiculed, invoked, trivialised, explained and speculated about in the media and in everyday conversation. Despite all this talk, there is surprisingly little consensus about how to answer basic questions about the nature, place, role and impact of leadership in contemporary society. This book brings together academics from a broad array of social science disciplines who are interested in contemporary understandings of leadership in the public domain. Their work on political, administrative and civil society leadership represents a stock-take of what we need to know and offers original examples of what we do know about public leadership. Although this volume connects scholars living in, and mostly working on, public leadership in Australia and New Zealand, their contributions have a much broader scope and relevance.  

    eISBN: 978-1-921536-31-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
    Paul ‘t Hart and John Uhr
  4. Contributors
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  5. 1. Understanding Public Leadership: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)
    Paul ‘t Hart and John Uhr

    ‘Leadership’ often gets talked about in the world of politics and the public sphere at large. It is routinely admired, vilified, ridiculed, invoked, trivialised, explained and speculated about in media discourse and in everyday conversation. Yet, despite all this talk, there is surprisingly little consensus about how to answer some of the basic questions, for example, about the nature, place, role and impact of leadership in contemporary society. The idea of this project is to bring together academics from a broad array of social science disciplines in Australia and its near abroad who are interested in, and are contributing to,...

  6. Part I: Democracy and Public Leadership

    • 2. The Neglected Problem of Democratic Leadership
      (pp. 25-36)
      John Kane and Haig Patapan

      Australia is usually regarded as one of the most democratic of countries. One of the signs of this is said to be the permanent, seemingly entrenched scepticism of Australians about politics in general and especially about the politicians they elect to lead them. Polls regularly show a curious disjunction between approval ratings for the political system itself, which are always high, and those for the politicians who inhabit it, which are invariably much lower. More than sceptical, Australians are often downright cynical about the motives and actions of their political leaders, even when they support the leader’s party. If hope...

    • 3. Distributed Authority in a Democracy: The Lattice of Leadership Revisited
      (pp. 37-44)
      John Uhr

      Democratic regimes share with all regimes a source of rule and authority. This operational source of authority can be distinguished from the more distant sources of regime legitimacy (Kemp 1988). Public leadership in contemporary Australia broadly takes two forms. One form illustrates the theme of ruling by detailing the ways that different centres of authority (political, bureaucratic, civic) contribute to public leadership. The other form illustrates the theme of legitimacy by tracing out less direct ways that ‘the public’ or the people collectively contribute to leadership. To simplify: public authority generally reflects the leadership of elected rulers, while public legitimacy...

    • 4. Towards Leader Democracy?
      (pp. 45-54)
      Jan Pakulski and John Higley

      Three trends are apparent in today’s liberal democracies: an ever more pronounced focus on political leaders; a heightening of this focus by electronic media; and more aggressive actions by leaders and the elites in which they are embedded. These trends reinforce each other and move the concrete physiognomy of liberal democracies to ‘leader democracies’. This move prompts, in turn, a conceptual integration of leaders and elites, together with amendments to Max Weber’s model of leader democracy (Weber 1978; Körösényi 2005).

      Leaders and elites are clearly interdependent: leaders provide elites with political focus and direction; elites envelope leaders and give them...

  7. Part II: Understanding Public Leadership:: Emergent Approaches

    • 5. Identity Confers Power: The New View of Leadership in Social Psychology
      (pp. 57-72)
      John C. Turner, Katherine J. Reynolds and Emina Subasic

      In this chapter we examine the question ‘what is leadership?’ and how it is understood from the perspective of social psychology. This field traditionally has been very interested in the question of leadership, with Kurt Lewin being one of the first to describe and empirically investigate the workings of authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire leaders (Lewin, Lippett and White 1939). Despite an encouraging start, in the post-war period the leadership question tended to disappear in social psychology, shifting into organisational psychology and other fields. The topic was approached largely implicitly in the ‘group dynamics’ tradition and through the study of ‘group...

    • 6. Leadership as Response not Reaction: Wisdom and Mindfulness in Public Sector Leadership
      (pp. 73-82)
      Paul Atkins

      This chapter concerns the development of cognitive and emotional capabilities of leaders in the public sector; in particular, the capacity to respond rather than react automatically to challenging events, described herein as ‘mindfulness’. The chapter aims to make the case:

      a. That key differences in the complexity of cognitive and emotional processing are not stylistic but developmental. Although difficult, it is possible for leaders to learn to think and feel in more complex ways; and

      b. That the cultivation of mindfulness in particular may well be associated with this development.

      In essence, the chapter argues that the failure to think...

    • 7. Bodies and Identities in Constructing Leadership Capital
      (pp. 83-92)
      Amanda Sinclair

      In this chapter, I explore two interrelated aspects of public leadership that have received little attention. The first is ‘identity’ and I argue that leaders are under new pressures to produce ‘appropriate’ leadership identities (Alvesson and Willmott 2002). Second, I draw attention to the importance of bodies and bodily performance in public calculations of leadership and who delivers it.

      I begin by defining the concepts of identities and bodies and their importance in producing leadership capital. Drawing on the results of a pilot study into representations of leaders’ bodies, I argue that leaders’ identities and bodies are under new scrutiny....

    • 8. Perceptions of Leadership
      (pp. 93-102)
      Keith Dowding

      There is a massive literature on leadership and leadership qualities (for some reviews see Grint 2000; Porter and McLoughlin 2006; Hunter et al. 2007; Mumford et al. 2008). Much of this literature concerns leadership in private sector organisations, but a great deal also concerns leadership in politics (Peele 2005; Morrel and Hartley 2006). There can be no doubt that personal psychological characteristics help some people to become leaders, and such characteristics can also help determine which leaders come to be seen as good or bad, strong or weak, progressive or regressive, and so on (Hogan and Kaiser 2005). Most accounts...

    • 9. History, Biography and Leadership: Grasping Public Lives
      (pp. 103-114)
      Barry Gustafson

      Historians have always been fascinated by leaders. Throughout recorded history, kings, generals, philosophers, prophets, dictators, presidents, prime ministers and captains of industry have been highlighted in accounts of public events. As one contemporary writer on leadership theory has suggested, ‘From its infancy, the study of history has been the study of leaders — what they did and why they did it’ (Bass 2007: 3).

      One question that has persisted is the extent to which, on the one hand, an individual can create history compared to the extent to which, on the other hand, any individual, even a leader, is merely the...

  8. Part III: Spheres of Public Leadership Practices

    • 10. The Institutionalisation of Leadership in the Australian Public Service
      (pp. 117-132)
      Catherine Althaus and John Wanna

      Public sector leadership is aspirational and contextual. It relies on a strange and complicated mix whereby politicians and bureaucrats are both meant to exhibit skills and outcomes emblematic of leaders whilst at the same time ensuring they respectively exercise their own responsibilities and duties without treading on each other’s toes. Nevertheless, leadership is often a team or collaborative process where the various players combine their respective competencies to progress desired means or ends.

      A traditional ‘responsible government’ view insists that politicians are the transformational leaders and bureaucrats simply the transactional managers. Administrative leadership according to this perspective is mundane and...

    • 11. Informal Public Leadership: The Case of Social Movements
      (pp. 133-144)
      David West

      One form of public leadership often overlooked by scholars is that of politically engaged parts of society, in particular, social movements. In fact, even within the social movement literature, the role of leaders(hip) is under-theorised. This chapter makes a small contribution to plugging these gaps. I focus on some of the contrasts between leadership in formal institutional or organisational contexts and leadership within the less organised, less institutionalised context of social movements (SMs). There is, however, considerable overlap between the nature of leaders and leadership in these different contexts. SM leadership is not entirely different from forms of leadership in...

    • 12. Outsiders or Insiders? Strategic Choices for Australian Indigenous Leadership
      (pp. 145-154)
      Will Sanders

      In the last couple of years, Cape York Aboriginal leader, Noel Pearson, has taken to writing regular columns in The Weekend Australian newspaper. On 7-8 July 2007, he wrote a column in which he reflected on the reactions of Indigenous leaders to the then recently announced Commonwealth ‘intervention’ in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, following the Northern Territory Government’s Little Children are Sacred report (BIPACSA 2007). Pearson was critical of Indigenous leaders, such as the Northern Territory Government minister Marion Scrymgour and the former Chief Executive Officer of ATSIC and now head of National Indigenous Television (NITV), Pat Turner, who were...

    • 13. From Bean-Counter to War Leader: National Security and Australian Public Leadership
      (pp. 155-164)
      Hugh White

      This chapter aims to do two things.¹ First, it explores how national security issues have recently shaped the styles and practices of public leadership in Australia. Second, very briefly, it looks at how, and how well, public leadership on these issues has been exercised. It will thus try to approach the interaction between public leadership and national security from both ends — how each affects the other. The essay will focus on political leadership: that is, on how national security issues shape the leadership of our politicians and how they lead on national security issues. There is much to be said...

    • 14. Police Leadership in Australia: Managing Networks
      (pp. 165-176)
      Jenny Fleming and Rob Hall

      There is a tendency in the police literature to attribute organisational activity and outcomes to individual action and specific internal factors (see, for example, Reiner 1991; Etter and Palmer 1995; Adlam 1998a, 1998b; Adlam and Villiers 2003; Haberfeld 2006). Relatively little of the police leadership literature focuses on the environmental context of organisations. Indeed, a recent entry in an international dictionary of policing on ‘police leadership’ refers to ‘the varied nature of the interpersonal relationships between police managers and supervisors and the impact of these upon organisational performance’. The management of external environments is not considered in the entry (Bradley...

    • 15. Political and Media Leadership in the Age of YouTube
      (pp. 177-186)
      Stuart Cunningham

      In this chapter, I will track the key academic traditions that inform the field of media-politics relations. I will then argue that the way in which both political science and media and communications academic traditions approach the politics-media relationship — an ‘inter-elite’ account — is being eroded by contemporary developments in internet affordances, especially around the blogosphere, citizen journalism and the extent of ‘virtual’ public communication. The implications of these trends for political leadership and the media-politics relationship, focusing on some relevant developments during the 2007 Australian Federal election campaign, are then briefly explored.

      The media and politics literature has a venerable...

  9. Part IV: Australian Political Leadership

    • 16. Is There a Command Culture in Politics? The Canberra Case
      (pp. 189-202)
      James Walter

      My recent concern has been with the conditions that encourage political leaders to ‘go too far’, that is, to override the constraints that not only reinforce democracy by diffusing power, but also that contribute to good policy-making by enforcing recurrent reality checks (Walter 2006). Part of the story is about the proclivities within leaders themselves, but part, too, is about the historical, sociological and cultural changes that have eroded the institutional barriers to leadership caprice. Studies of leadership psychology have alerted us to predictable patterns of leadership behaviour (Walter 2007a; Walter 2007b), but these must be seen in conjunction with...

    • 17. Leadership Practices: Reflections on Australian Political Leadership
      (pp. 203-216)
      David Kemp

      This chapter provides some reflections on political leadership in Australia from the perspective of one who has been involved both as an academic studying politics and leadership and as an active participant in national politics for a number of years.

      The growing body of literature on political leadership points to many aspects of public leadership that could be (and are) readily illustrated from Australian examples. Paul ‘t Hart and John Uhr (this volume) usefully bring many of these together in a way that has considerable resonance for one who has been an active practitioner: the close interdependence of leaders and...

    • 18. Styles of Conservative Leadership in Australian Politics
      (pp. 217-226)
      Wayne Errington

      Contemporary political science literature on leadership has sought, primarily, to understand policy innovation and the achievement of goals. For Robert Tucker (1987: 15), political leadership is the act of giving direction to a group or community. Blondel (1987: 25) sees political leadership as action designed to modify the environment. By these measures, leadership is not so much a journey or a relationship as a changing of the social and political landscape for which leaders are the overseers and instigators. Goal-centred approaches to leadership seek to differentiate leadership from office-holding; judging leaders by measuring stated goals against achievements. This interest in...

    • 19. Reinventing Australian Conservatism in the States: New Leadership and the Liberal Revival under Bolte and Askin
      (pp. 227-238)
      Norman Abjorensen

      The formation of the Liberal Party of Australia in the mid-1940s heralded a new effort to harness the forces of liberalism and conservatism in opposition to Labor Party rule in the latter years of World War II and immediately after. It was not until 1949 that the party gained office at Federal level, beginning what was to be a record unbroken term of 23 years, but its efforts faltered at state level in Victoria, where the party was divided, and in New South Wales, where Labor was seemingly entrenched. The fortunes were reversed with the rise to leadership of men...

    • 20. The Retiring Premiers: A New Style of Leadership Transition
      (pp. 239-252)
      Paul Strangio

      In the introduction to their 2005 edited volume Yes, Premier: Labor leadership in Australia’s states and territories, John Wanna and Paul Williams point to the ‘surprisingly sparse’ scholarly literature on sub-national politics in Australia and an associated absence of a ‘systematic analysis of state leaders’ (pp 25 and 29). The Wanna and Williams study was an admirable attempt to redress that latter omission through a collective study of the (then) current batch of sub-national leaders (all of whom, for the first time since Federation, were from the Labor side of politics). The publication of Yes, Premier was preceded by the...

  10. Part V: Political Leadership:: New Zealand

    • 21. Taming Leadership? Adapting to Institutional Change in New Zealand Politics
      (pp. 255-264)
      Raymond Miller

      Studies of political leadership typically place great stress on the importance of individual character. The personal qualities looked for in a New Zealand or Australian leader include strong and decisive action, empathy and an ability to both reflect the country’s egalitarian traditions and contribute to a growing sense of nationhood. The impetus to transform leaders from extraordinary people into ordinary citizens has its roots in the populist belief that leaders should be accessible and reflect the values and lifestyle of the average voter. This fascination with individual character helps account for the sizeable biographical literature on past and present leaders,...

    • 22. Comparing Pathways to Power: Women and Political Leadership in New Zealand
      (pp. 265-274)
      Jennifer Curtin

      There has always been a public fascination with women political leaders, primarily because there have been so few of them; they are indeed exceptional. Because political leadership has primarily been a male domain, arguably one of the last bastions of almost exclusive male power, watching a woman perform this role seems to attract significant interest. Most recently, the focus has been on two aspiring women leaders: Hillary Clinton, whose bid for the Democrat nomination was reported daily in newspapers around the world and, more tragically, the thwarted and fatal campaign by Benazir Bhutto to re-enter the Pakistani government.

      In addition...

    • 23. Are Women Leaders Different? Margaret Thatcher and Helen Clark
      (pp. 275-284)
      Marian Simms

      Untangling the gendered aspects of political leaders’ successes provides something of a puzzle. While many studies have demonstrated that gender may be a factor in lack of political success, few studies have examined gender as a factor in success. This is in part for methodological reasons — the number of women leaders is very small — hence quantitative approaches do not work well. Of course, the number of successful women leaders — defined as being re-elected to office — is even smaller. This chapter focuses on two very successful such leaders, the UK’s Margaret Thatcher and New Zealand’s Helen Clark, asking how and in...