Finding new ways to improve public sector performance is one of the key objectives of research in Public Management, and the project intends to contribute to this rapidly developing research field. Although the project is primarily focused on public organiSations, it is also relevant for mainstream leadership literature and includes insights from this literature.
The key theoretical contribution is that the project theoretically establishes a causal chain from leadership training to leadership strategy (self-reported and perceived by employees) to organisational performance. It also contributes by investigating two very important potential mediators (performance information use and psychological working environment), and we explicitly theorise about potential differences between public and private organisations, enabling us to understand the special characteristics (if any) of public sector leadership.
In recent years the literature on leadership has focused on transactional and transformational leadership. Although the latter is being championed by international policy makers, scientific research on the topic is lagging far behind because of common source bias and endogeneity problems. Leadership strategies are often chosen in response to existing problems, organisations with specific profiles attract and select specific types of leaders, and self-reported performance data are biased. In this project, we will advance the state of knowledge and contribute to the literature methodologically by performing a field experiment and by using objective performance data to assess the impact of various leadership strategies. Compared to existing studies, our treatments are stronger and include more leaders (n=720) and more employees (n=23,000).
Empirically, we will make a major contribution to the literature on public sector leadership if we show that leadership training significantly affects leadership strategy and ultimately objectively measured performance. Even a null finding on either the relationship between leadership training and leadership strategy or between leadership strategy and performance is highly relevant because the international literature strongly expects positive effects. If we find no effect of the investigated leadership strategies, it suggests that the investigated types of leadership may not be a feasible way to improve performance. If our leadership treatments do not affect the participants’ leadership strategies, although the treatments are stronger than existing treatments in the literature, which had a strong effect, this finding would also contribute to our understanding of how we should (not) design leadership training. Regardless of the results, the project will contribute by being the first Danish experimental study of public sector leadership impact.
For more details, please see the full project description.