Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Collaborative Leadership Development for Local Government Officials: Exploring Competencies and Program Impact

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Collaborative Leadership Development for Local Government Officials: Exploring Competencies and Program Impact

Article excerpt


One hundred years after Frederick Taylor's seminal work, The Principles of Scientific Management (1911), it is worthwhile to observe how much the concept of leadership has evolved. Core themes of motivation, performance, and human interaction have developed and become more sophisticated (Yukl, 2010). "Great man" or "trait" theories have been replaced by more complex, interactive theories of leadership. However, the traditional notion of leadership focusing on hierarchical leaders and followers remains dominant in popular conceptions of leadership and in programs that seek to develop leaders.

What characterized leadership in 20th-century organizations shaped by Taylor's scientific management paradigm contrasts with emerging, contemporary organizational priorities of the 21st century. Today's leadership context, particularly in the public sector, is interorganizational. In public administration in particular, this shift corresponds with an emerging collaborative governance paradigm that is reorienting the field away from a focus on hierarchy, toward a focus on networks and partnerships that cross traditional boundaries (Emerson, Nabatchi & Balogh, 2012). This new focus highlights the need to develop leadership competencies that extend beyond traditional, hierarchical, managerial functions (Morse, 2008; Sullivan, Williams & Jeffares, 2012).

While it is important to understand how the definition of leadership has transformed over time, it is equally important to consider the connected task of developing leaders. Iles and Preece (2006) highlighted this need by noting that public leadership development programs must expand their efforts to build the competencies that create value both within organizations and beyond. Considering how these competencies align with leadership training components is necessary to assess training gaps and opportunities for improvement. The transition from leading within organizations to leading beyond them places new demands on leadership development programs. Drawing upon the growing body of literature on collaborative competencies, as well as the literature on leadership development, along with experiences and data from two local government leadership development programs, this article addresses the call to develop leaders who can achieve results both within traditional organizational structures and also across organizational and sectoral boundaries.

This article utilizes program-specific information to offer insights and respond to the question presented in Getha-Taylor, Holmes, Jacobson, Morse and Sowa (2011, p. i92): "Which programs, strategies, and curricula are most appropriate to build and nurture leadership skills for public leadership 'across boundaries'?" To this end, three related questions of interest are explored: 1) What additional leadership competencies are required of local government managers for collaborative governance? 2) Which programmatic components are best suited to develop collaborative competencies? 3) What are the most appropriate methods to evaluate the expected outcomes of collaborative leadership development programs?

The article is organized accordingly. First, we review literature on collaborative leadership and collaborative competencies and examine arguments calling for the development of those competencies in public leaders. Next, we consider how training curricula should adapt to develop collaborative competency development. We present insights from local government executive development programs in North Carolina and Kansas and examine data collected from program participants to consider which programmatic components are best suited to develop collaborative leadership competencies. We then turn to the question of how to evaluate program impact on collaborative competency, again utilizing data from the two programs being studied. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of the implications of this research and offer advice for others engaged in training public sector executives. …

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