Public Leadership Essay Sample

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Leadership in itself is the correlation of power and influence put to use to ensure that objectives are met to achieve satisfactory rewards (Rusaw, 2001). However, the main difference between private and public sector leaders is the intended target. The duty of the private sector is to serve its patrons and investors, where profitable business is dependent upon client sales, stakeholders, and its customer base. A leader in the private sector will make decisions based on financial gain and cost-analysis; a public sector leader’s obligation is exclusive to the public to provide essential services and communications in a more visible way. Furthermore, a leader in the public sector may make decisions that are not financially favorable, but are in the interest of the public. As an example, it can be argued that welfare programs are not a beneficial financial investment, but it is in the public interest to invest in these programs. It is important to note that a definition of public leadership is challenging. One definition of public leadership is an approach to community management or guidance used to integrate and implement the talents and resources that best serve the interests of society.

A public sector leader, for instance, acts as an experienced representative of a segment of the public who is passionately and skillfully able to articulate the concerns of the group. This delicate dance involves a sense of balance necessary between the realization of objectives and the support of followers in areas that prove to be unclear or conflicting. This type of headship demands organizational effectiveness, and a successful leader must possess the ability to work in partnership with others to coordinate the available assets he or she requires in an effort to achieve the initial fundamental purpose or intention. According to Sir Richard Leese, a member of the Manchester, UK City Council, leadership involves making an idea obtainable; therefore, a leader must communicate a vision to set a course for action. Moreover, the equal part of this concept is to have sufficient foresight that will inspire and motivate others – enough to bring the vision to fruition through shared contribution (Smith, 2012).

Public leadership also involves cultural awareness of an organization for the development of practical direction. Additionally, public sector leadership entails groups of individuals from subordinates to governmental agencies. Fundamentally, public service is a contract between legislators and the community dictated by an official governmental body to administer its subject matter, capacity, and relationship of work (Rusaw, 2001). Characteristics of public leadership vary, and mostly, the definition of public leadership resides in the dependability of its work. Nevertheless, an effective public leader will use individual appeal, its relationships between people, and professional competence in the decision-making process. Performance standards dictated by the organization’s mission and goals also help the public leader realize his or her goals. Those who follow public leaders also influence the success of public leadership through their perception of the implementation of leadership duties. The Four Themes

There are four themes of public leadership that correlate to help examine and recognize public leadership implementation: 1. The principle of public leadership is an elemental method of representational authority (Rusaw, 2001). 2. Involvement and agreement are rudimentary ingredients to public leadership (Rusaw, 2001). 3. Public leadership is supports the notion of definitive natural, economic, political, or military asset accountability to the people. 4. The values of administrative effectiveness and efficiency are essential in public leadership (Rusaw, 2001).

A familiar failing of both public and private entities is characteristically too much bureaucracy, creating less efficiency and mandatory adherence to obligatory rules and restrictions (Woudoun, 2013). From a competitive perspective in the private sector, companies providing the same goods and services are natural competitors. The objective in the free market is one company or corporation’s dominance over the other. By contrast, in the public sector, a public health facility or a school may be an instance where public and private sectors compete in a similar fashion. Similarities also exist in the hierarchies of both the public and private leadership sectors. Both delegate work in large organizations. They both have those who lead, administrate, manage, and work at every level; however, the private area may to some extent have different names. There are also other differences. Public vs Private Leadership

Private Leadership:
* Authority to revise the business and strategic positions * Stability of leadership for long-range plan implementation * Bonus or salary increases from surplus money distribution * Evaluation of objectives from results obtained (profits) * Protection through exclusion from media scrutiny

* Selective project cuts reduce profits
* Awards for achievement
* Universal operating policies set by “Expert” board
* Effectiveness is the operation objective (e.g., in the private sector, unless hazardous chemicals or other factors that may risk public safety are at issue, there are usually no restrictions to a purchase order—the education of business unit leaders on best practices and security is the gating factor. * Effectiveness determines top management evaluation

Public Leadership:
* Structure may be subject to persuasion or manipulation by external and special interest groups * Election process restricts time for objective completion * Consequences for operating under budget

* Objectives assessed by process (Programs)
* High visibility, constant media analysis
* Sweeping program cuts to reduce costs
* Failure results in punishment
* For adequate policy setting, education may be a requirement for a volatile board * Efficiency is the operation objective (e.g., in the public sector, any expenditure over $20,000 can take months or a year for city council approval. Additionally, many programs undergo revision in response to a critical need to reinforce infrastructure or comply with government regulations. * Dramatic incidents determine top management evaluation

Public and private leadership integrate an ‘ends-means reversal’ dynamic where the private sector receives stimulation in the form of revenue (ends) through the products or services (means) it provides; conversely, the public sector obtains motivation by the products or services (ends) it provides to obtain revenue (means). In essence, the public sector references the government’s use of its many agency devices to provide services and essential goods to the public, and receives funding solely via taxpayer monies. Conversely, the private sector’s smaller businesses and larger corporations meet the public’s need for goods and services as well; however, funding comes from the voluntary purchases of customers (Woudoun, 2013).

In summary, regarding public and private leadership, one size does not fit all. The differences and similarities indicated here emphasize selective approaches to leadership roles. The requirements of different organizations to meet its objectives in both the public and private sectors of leadership necessitate diverse leadership strategies, methods, and assessment procedures. Moreover, it is important to note that successful leaders in the public sector should use opportunities to establish partnerships with private sector leaders. Collaboration of shared resources, ideas, and goals will benefit both parties, and a strong leader in both sectors should consider these potential opportunities.


Rusaw, C.A., 2001. Leading public organizations: an interactive approach, 1e. Retrieved on December 27, 2012 from Smith, M., 2012. What makes a great public sector leader? Retrieved on December 27, 2012 from

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