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Although there is no shortage of general studies and theories of leadership, the same cannot be said for public leadership. This concern surfaced as a critical issue among scholars at the 2008 Minnowbrook III conference. Drawing from that discussion, this article calls for invigorating the study of public leadership within public administration (PA). We present the case for public leadership, that is, leadership for the public good, where challenges are complex, stakeholders are many, values are conflicting, and resources are limited. Traditional, generic models of leadership—as in, leading followers toward some specific goal—do not align well with these current challenges. We argue for studying public leadership specifically, rather than trying to retrofit existing concepts of leadership from business management or elective politics. PA should be the leading voice in understanding and promoting public leadership. By examining previous public leadership scholarship through three broad lenses—the character of public leadership, the function of public leadership, and the jurisdiction of public leadership—we develop theoretical propositions designed to drive a revitalized research agenda. We conclude with a set of research questions we see as critical to crystallizing the significance of public leadership.

Cite as: 

Heather Getha-Taylor, Maja Husar Holmes, Willow S. Jacobson, Ricardo S. Morse, Jessica E. Sowa, Focusing the Public Leadership Lens: Research Propositions and Questions in the Minnowbrook Tradition, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Volume 21, Issue suppl_1, January 2011, Pages i83–i97,

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Heather Getha-Taylor, Jessica E. Sowa, Maja Husar Holmes, Ricardo S. Morse
Public Leadership