An introduction to public leadership
An introduction to public leadership

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An introduction to public leadership

1.1 Leadership roles in the public space

You will have already noted that the public sphere represents a very broad range of social, political and economic activity involving large numbers of employees and volunteers.

The sheer size of the workforce of state-controlled organisations in the public sector offers some sense of the scale of organisational challenges, particularly during a time of rapidly changing social and political conditions. Leadership in this sphere is about tackling some of those challenges and dealing with their inherent complexity. For example, enacting and enforcing a new law on safe driving requires leadership from a range of role-holders, from government ministers, national and local politicians, campaigners and pressure groups, civil servants and local government officials, and, of course, the police.

In the following video, Professor Hartley considers who contributes to public and community services and what distinguishes leadership in the public sector from leadership in other spheres of economic and social activity.

Download this video clip.Video player: ou_futurelearn_police_vid_1003.mp4
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Look into any community, anywhere in the UK, and you'll see the huge diversity of the public services sector. If you work in the sector you may work with a range of professionals from GPs, social workers to teachers. You may work with elected politicians, civic leaders or religious leaders, political campaigners. You may work with people who run toddler groups, volunteers, school governors. The sheer size of this public services workforce is staggering.
The public sector is the part of society which is created and paid for by the state in order to create goods and services for society. So it includes government, it includes public services like the police, the health service, local government and so on.
Leadership in public services is different from leadership in private sector business, for example, in a number of ways. An important issue about leadership in the public sector is that the aim of leadership is to create decisions and execute purposes which are for the public good, however we come to define that. And therefore there's a need to think not just about leading an organization, but also leading the public.
Public leadership also always has to take into account elected and appointed politicians as well, because they are our representatives who help to channel the views of the public into public organizations. So whether those are directly connected to organisations, as in local government and the civil service, or whether they're more remotely connected, like in the health service, nevertheless, leadership has to take account of elected and appointed politicians.
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