P8 Conducting public leadership research that matters: valuing research processes, methods and outcomes

Panel Chairs:
John Bryson, Barbara Crosby, Robin Hambleton, Jean Hartley, Brad Jackson, Sonia Ospina, Alessandro Sancino and Siv Vangen

Corresponding Chair:
Jean Hartley, jean.hartley@open.ac.uk

The practice and the study of public leadership are at a critical juncture. Societies, states and markets around the globe are in a period of profound, transformative change (Benington, 2011). While the volume of research explicitly public leadership has expanded in recent years (Van Wart, 2013: Ospina, 2016), Hartley (2018) argues that our research designs have failed to capture the true complexity and dynamism of public leadership challenges. In considering how to respond to this shortfall, Crosby and Bryson (2018) suggest that we need to explore a fuller range of leadership theories and to deploy a wider array of methods.

The panel has been convened to ascertain what must be done to provide a stronger research response to the full suite of societal leadership challenges. Specifically, we will consider how public management scholars should continue to develop the view of public leadership as a collective, multilevel, cross-sector endeavour imbued with public values that provides a compelling bulwark against the highly individualised, autocratic solutions promulgated by populists and ‘thinly masked demagogues’ (Crosby and Bryson, 2018).

The panel encourages submissions that actively draw on leadership theory from within public management as well as the broader leadership fields to discover new and sustainable ways to create public value and to tackle wicked problems. We invite our colleagues to roam more freely through the disciplines and experiment with a variety of methods and to use new media for communicating research. We encourage contributors to factor in the conceptualisation of context and purpose so that there is critical reflection on “what matters”.

By way of general guide, the following topics are suggested:

  • The inter-relationship between collaborative governance and collective leadership practices
  • Place-based approaches to leadership in confronting societal challenges
  • Integrating public and political leadership and public policy and public management processes
  • The role of government, civil society and the business sector in either creating or destroying public value
  • Innovative digital approaches to leadership research and action to gather together actors and/or citizens into public value co-creation;
  • Positive and negative “followership” and the role of social networks and media in framing processes of sense-making and sense-giving


Benington J (Ed) (2011), New Horizons for Local Governance, Local Authorities and Research Councils Initiative (LARCI): London.

Crosby, B. and Bryson, J. (2018), “Why leadership of public leadership research matters: and what to do about it”, Public Management Review, Vol. 20 No. 9, pp. 1265-1286.

Hartley, Jean. (2018). “Ten propositions about public leadership”, International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 202-217.

Ospina, S. M. (2016), “Collective leadership and context in public administration: Bridging public leadership research and leadership studies,” Public Administration Review, Vol. No. 2, pp. 275–287.

Van Wart, M. (2013), “Administrative leadership theory: a reassessment after 10 years”, Public Administration, Vol. 91 No. 3, pp. 521-543.