Sample Public Administration Essay Paper on Public Sector Management vs. Leadership

Public Sector Management vs. Leadership

The role and importance of effective leadership, as well as its stark difference from management continue to elicit fresh suggestions on the need to have leaders rather than management in both the private and public sectors.  The differences between the two (leadership and management), and in view of what leaders achieve within a short time in their position in comparison with managers continues to push organizations to put leaders rather than managers in important decision-making positions. Putting leaders in such important decision-making positions has gone beyond just the private sector in the public sector, where more leaders find their way into management positions of different public agencies (Bohoris & Vorria, 2010). While it is possible to assume that managers exercise leadership, it is entirely wrong, given that not all managers have leadership skills, even as some people lead without necessarily having any management positions (Algahtani, 2014). Scholars in management and leadership studies agree that while there is an overlap between the two, the two are not synonymous given that the two entail unique activities and functions (Bass, 2010; Lunenburg, 2011; Yukl, 2010). The difference between leaders and managers goes beyond the approaches the two use in running agencies, into the changes each brings into the agency (especially leaders), skills and strategies each employs, as well as the behavior in the effective running of the agency.

On the difference between management and leadership, Bennis and Nanus (2007) argue that while managers administer, leaders innovate. Here, managers largely concentrate on caring for the structure and system that is in place; leaders on the other hand, seek to change the system to adapt to the changes taking place within the environment. Even more is that leaders tend to focus on the people within the agency rather than the structures and systems. Within the public sector, for instance, managers tend to look at the system and policies protecting them and ensuring that they work as intended. However, leaders within public agencies work to change the systems and policies so that the two are relevant to the changes occurring not only within the environment, but also outside the context of their working, aligning them with new systems and policies proven to have far-reaching positive impacts.

Further, Kotter (2001) gives a distinction between leaders and managers, stating the management function is largely an assigned task involving planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, problem solving and control. On the other hand, leaders set direction, align people, motivate them and inspire them to do more. In essence, while manager seek to control every aspect of the people under his/her management, leaders are more concerned with inspiring and motivating their followers to do more, perhaps more than their job description.

Kotter (2001) further describes the distinction between leadership and management indicating that while the tow are distinct, they are yet complementary. In this complementary relationship, Kotter (2001) argues that while it is the responsibility of managers to cope with complexities within the working environment, leaders cope with change. For leaders, therefore, coping with change involves setting up a vision, communicating the vision to the followers and aligning the followers towards the achievement of the vision. In contrast, management involves taking up the vision and implementing it as well as the direction set by the leaders. Additionally, managers have hands on experience with the day-to-day running and management of an agency, placing them at a better position of implementing the vision, thus fulfilling the complementary relationship between leadership and management.

Perhaps even the most distinctive aspect between leadership and management is on the people the two have responsibility over. Thus, while managers have subjects, leaders have followers. The working relationship with managers is one that requires the execution of responsibility as stated by the manager. Leaders’ working relationship with their followers hinges on trust and the ability of the followers to not only stick to the established routines, but also go above and beyond the routine given the established trust between the two (Bennis & Nanus, 2007). Managers, therefore, work with established routines, accepting the status quo and work within the confines of the established rules and policies. Leaders, in contrast, challenge the status quo, seeking to find new and innovative ways of executing duties assigned to them, in addition to encouraging their subjects to be creative in the execution of their duties. Leaders are thus even more important within public sectors where the workforce is becoming increasingly diverse in light of the presence of millenials within the workforce who think differently (Musgrave, 2014).

Kotter (2001) argues that management and leadership are both essential elements within an organization. Additionally, Kotter (2001) emphasizes the need for an organization/ agency to nourish both leadership and management as a means of achieving the set vision. Nourishing the two is important, given that while most managers count the value added to the agency/organization by their subjects, leaders create value in their followers through the creation of circles of influence. Bennis (1989) summarizes the need for both leaders and managers (and particularly leaders) stating, “To survive in the twenty-first century, we are going to need a new generation of leaders—leaders, not managers. The distinction is an important one. Leaders conquer the context—the volatile, turbulent, ambiguous surroundings that sometimes seem to conspire against us and will surely suffocate us if we let them—while managers surrender to it” p. 7.

Bennis’ summary of leadership, the need for a “new generation” of leaders is applicable in both the private and public sectors. It is especially important for the public sector, which is traditionally slow in accepting changes, particular in contravention of established norms of executing functions. It is for this reason that leaders, not managers, in the public sector must be agents of change. Northhouse (2016) posits that leader within the public sector must the agents of change, using transformational leadership as an exceptional form in influencing followers to do more than is expected of them. Northouse (2016) additionally posits that while management came into being as a means of reducing chaos in organizations; make them run more effectively and efficiently, leadership (transformational) should attempt to influence people, organizations and even cultures in achieving a common goal. As agents of changes, therefore, leaders play an important role in precipitating change, even as the leader and followers bond in facilitating the change process (Northouse, 2016).

As agents of change, Denhardt and Denhardt (2007) argue that leaders within the public service must “steer” the agencies, and not “row.” The argument here is that as agents of change, public service leaders must go beyond putting themselves at the centers of carrying the public service burden, but where possible delegate the responsibility through contracting and other programs to others (Denhardt & Denhardt, 2007). Moreover, Denhardt and Denhardt (2007) argue that leaders within the public service must find ways of squeezing more service from the same or smaller revenue base through transformational leadership, which has the capacity to mover groups, organizations, as well as societies towards the pursuit of higher purposes with the limited resources available.

While it is important for the leader to be an agent of change, proper leadership requires specific changes of the leader. Public agencies have for a long been associated with backdoor dealings, corruption and other vices, which erode the public’s confidence in the agencies. Heifetz (1994) posits that the term “leadership” invokes the feeling of self-image and moral codes. First among the changes that require instigation by the leader, therefore, include not only the involvement of the followers and the public, but also raising the moral standards used in pursuit of the set goals. For instance, in an agency rid or known of backdoor dealings and corruption, a leader in such an agency must restore the public’s confidence in the agency by rooting out the elements of corruption, promoting transparency through the involvement of the public in such things as tendering.

In facilitating the changes, leaders must also play some managerial roles. The roles played by the management fall within three categories, spelling out ten distinctive roles that the leader must undertake for effective public sector management. According to Kumar (2015), Henry Mintzberg spelled out the ten roles in three categories namely interpersonal, informational and decisional roles. Mintzberg offered that the interpersonal roles provide a link bringing all managerial work together. Through the roles therefore, the primary roles of the manager is to create interpersonal relationship within the agency and between the agency and the public (Kumar, 2015).

As part of the interpersonal role, the manager also plays the figurehead role, where he/she is the agency’s representative both legally and socially outside the agency. Within the agency, the supervisor is the work group’s representative to the higher management and higher management to the workgroup (Kumar, 2015). Furthermore, as part of the interpersonal role, the manager plays the liaison role interacting with people and peers outside the organization. Moreover, management in the top levels uses the interactions in gaining favors and information, even as supervisors use the interaction in maintaining routine workflow (Kumar, 2015).

Mintzberg’s second role of the management is the information role, which involves the manager as the monitor, disseminator and spokesperson (Kumar, 2015). As the monitor, the manager plays the role of receiving and collecting all the information about the operations of the agency. The manager as the disseminator transmits information into the agency, even as her/she disseminates information from the organization into the public (spokesperson).  As a spokesperson, the manager is therefore the industry expert, speaking for the agency and its activities as related to the environment that it operates.

Mintzberg’s last role of the manager is the decision roles, which include the manager as an entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator, and negotiator. According to Mintzberg, the manager as an entrepreneur is responsible for initiating change and new projects, identifying new ideas, and delegating responsibility to others (Kumar, 2015). As a disturbance handler, it is the manager’s responsibility to deal with threats to the agency, taking corrective measures in times of disputes and crises, as well as resolving conflicts within the workforce. Additionally, as a resource allocator, the manager has the final say on recipients of resources. Here, the manager schedules, budgets for the set priorities and chooses the organization’s placement of efforts. Mintzberg’s managerial role for decisional roles is the manager’s role as a negotiator. For this role, the manager negotiates on behalf the agency, as well as makes decisions that capsulate the agency as a whole.

Aside from Mintzberg, Kotter also contributes to the role of managers within an agency. For Kotter (1990), managers must play the role of promotion of stability within the agency, as well as copying with complexity. The manager, therefore, has a role to play in ensuring the stability of the agency, as well as bringing order and consistency. Kotter (1990), further postulates that managers should create systems and structures, which ensure continuity within the agency, in addition to ensuring employees act normally in their daily activities and routines.

While the roles of the manager define what the manager should do, and at what time to achieve the set goals, successful attainment of the goals largely rely on the manager’s skills, attitudes and behavior towards the achievement of the goals. The managerial skills herein allow the manager to navigate the murky waters that come with management of an agency. Salamon (2000) argues that apart from managerial skills, managers need negotiation, goal setting, communication and financial management skills. Additionally, managers require mobilization skills, particularly for the activation of partnerships.

It is not enough to activate partnerships, there is need to sustain them, an action that requires specific skills. Salamon (2000) informs that managers require orchestration skills, which essentially sustain the networks created. Thus, like the music conductor, the manager should be able to bring both the public and private sectors into a working relationship, and have the skills to sustain the relationship in order to achieve the goals set at the establishment of the relationship.

Another part of the skill set required of managers is the modulation skill. According to Salamon (2000), the skill helps in the “sensitive modulation of rewards and penalties in order to elicit the
cooperative behavior required from the interdependent players in a complex tool network” (p. 1638). Modulation as a skill, therefore, enables the manager to keep all parties interested in the established network. The skill is especially important to sustain the interdependence between the public and private sectors.

To complete the new system of governance, there is need for establishing new managerial behaviors and attitudes. Leaders, Hifetz (1994) argues, must change their attitude and view leadership as not only telling people what to do or getting the job done, but also as an adaptation, helping people to actualize their values. Musgrave (2014) adds voice to this, stating that leaders must have a positive attitude towards the changing technologies, change their behavior from that of command and control to a collaborative behavior, especially in view of the diversity of the workforce. More importantly, leaders must adopt a flexible attitude and behavior especially when dealing with Millennials who are not only tech savvy, but also prefer working in an environment that encourages community social responsibility (Musgrave, 2014).


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