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Learning to Lead through Training and Human Resource Development in the Public Sector


Adults are learning even when they don’t realize they are learning. Through self-directed learning or taking classes at a local community center, people find ways to fill their lives with leisure activity. Learning leisurely is what one would call “leisure education”. By focusing, learning and developing one’s skills through leisure activities, one approaches life in a more balanced holistic manner. The benefits to this holistic approach show that people live healthier lives which, can have tremendous positive results on both physical and mental well-being. To the same extent Leisure education can have many social, political and ethical ramifications.

Keywords:  Leadership, Public Sector

Learning to Lead through Training and Human Resource Development in the Public Sector 

Public Leadership is an emerging field. Maneuvering and learning to lead through Government organizations can be different from the private and non-profit sector.  Government organizations lead themselves to be more bureaucratic on nature than other sectors. This brings us to look at what leadership looks like and how to develop skill sets for employees within the sector.

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Rick Vogel and Doris Masal in Public Leadership A review of the Literature and Framework for Future Research looks at four approaches to public leadership. Public Administration scholars agree that leadership is “crucial to the efficiency and accountability of public organizations (Vogel & Masal 2015 p.1166). In this literature review we will look at some of the behavioral theoretical approaches that could be considered subjective and objective.

Interestingly, Niam Kapucu and Yusuf Ustun in Collaborative Crises Management and Leadership in the Public Sector identifies leadership competencies and which set are the most effective during crises and applying the concepts to Turkish Government. More demands from the public into handling crises makes leadership more important than ever. Inadequate leadership for crises in public leadership can lead to loss of life and property. One aspect is being collaborative among agencies, businesses and non-profits to deliver services needed in response to a crises. “It is expected from leaders that they openly express their ideas, inspire people to mobilize, and concentrate on problems and results. However, collaborative leadership requires a different style of leadership (Kapucu & Ustun 2018 p.549).” The focus becomes on guiding versus control, motivating versus directing. In researching 37 competencies used in leadership, only 12 were applicable for crises leadership (Kapucu & Ustun 2018 p.549).

Education and training as Successful strategies employed by women to accede to leadership positions in the public sector in Kenya by Esther Thaara Muoria, Dr. Hazel Gachoka Gachunga, & Dr. Anthony W. Waititu looks at those strategies that have helped women succeed in the public sector. The study points that education, training opportunities and experience helps build on success (Muoria, Gachoka, Gachinga & Waititu 2013 p.297). This concept identifies powerlessness, poverty and underrepresentation makes women less successful in the public sector. Education is seen as instruction that helps build decision skills and strategies, whie training is knowledge that is used to enhance performance (Muoria, Gachoka, Gachinga & Waititu 2013 p.298).

James Caillier wrote Toward a Better Understanding of the Relationship Between Transformational Leadership, Public Service Motivation, Mission Valence, and Employee Performance: A Preliminary Study. Found that leadership practices can be an indirect motivator for improving employee performance with a mix of other motivators.  Trnaformantional leadership allows the practice of efficacy, effective commitment, beneficiary contact, support for innovation and optimism (Caillier 2014 p. 219). Public service motivation is the motivation by an employee to deliver services for the good of others and society (Caillier 2014 p. 221).

Managing the Entanglement: Complexity Leadership in Public Sector Systems by Murphy, Rhosed, Meek and Denyer also points out the inadequacy of literature to discuss leadership in the public sector. The perspectives still use classical management and role theory, transformational leadership, transactional leadership, horizontal and collaborative leadership, ethical and critical leadership theory.  Some of what makes public administration different from other sectors is the limitations of jobs and their roles to create impact since leadership often is analyzed by outcome based studies. However, leadership can transcend beyond traditional hierarchies and allows a person to lead across and lead up (Murphy, Rhodes, Meek, & Denyer, 2017 p.693). Relational Leadership is an merging style the article discusses, which is the social influence process through which emergent coordination (i.e., evolving social order) and change (i.e., new values, attitudes, approaches, practices, ideologies, etc.) are constructed and produced (Murphy, Rhodes, Meek, & Denyer, 2017 p.693).”

Many leadership theories have been looked at within the public sector in recent years, however more research needs to be done on the impact of how leadership training improves organizational performance. Brett Seidle, Sergio Fernandez and James Perry did a study: Do Leadership Training and Development Make a Difference in the Public Sector? A Panel Study, which addresses this very issue. What they found is that it is worthwhile for public organizations to invest in leadership training. A combination of coaching, classroom instruction feedback and experiential training is needed to improve the results of leadership, which the combination allows the organization to have higher performance (Seidle, Fernandez, Perry, 2016 p.603). The research again point out similar statements of their being a gap on research in the public sector and leadership and even more so when looking at training efforts. Some issues found in the public sector ass issues is that there is “greater goal ambiguity and goal conflict than with other sectors making leadership challenging. Government processes and political life being set up that way making alignment more difficult. (Seidle, Fernandez, Perry, 2016 p.604).


Vogel & Masal chose for their literature review of leadership a bio-metrical approach to merging the social science data they found in other studies. The data was composed through co-citation analysis and bibliographic data. Through analysis this allowed to find common elements and repetitious data around leadership in government in previous research. From this analysis four approaches to public leadership was found looking at subjective versus objective and micro-level versus multi-level. These four types of leadership are behavioral, biographical, functionalist, reformist (Vogel & Masal 2015 p.1167-1172). The concept also suggests the alignment of public service motivation and mission valiance must align with goals in order to

Kapucu and Ustun show there are 12 competencies related to crises leadership and they are: decisiveness, flexibility, communication (informing), problem-solving, managing innovation and creativity, personnel planning, motivating, building and managing teams, decision-making, networking and partnering, scanning the environment, and strategic planning (decisiveness, flexibility, communication (informing), problem-solving, managing innovation and creativity, personnel planning, motivating, building and managing teams, decision-making, networking and partnering, scanning the environment, and strategic planning (Kapucu & Ustun 2018 p.549). The leadership skills for competencies can be developed through a combination of education, experience and training influence (Kapucu & Ustun 2018 p.550). With this being identified as the main strategy for helping women succeed in Kenya, one can also perceive that in government such as in the Unites States that education can help with the ascension into leadership within government with higher positions often requiring more advanced degrees.

Caillier tested 3 hypotheses about the effects of transformational leadership in light of public service motivation and mission values looking at 964 questionnaires. The results showed there was a direct link between transformational leadership and job satisfaction. The findings tested three variations of hypothesis using a combination of values public service motivation and transformational leadership (Caillier p. 228).

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Literature Review

A functionalist approach focuses on innovation capacity within the government. Reforming policies in order to produce certain outcomes is another characteristic of this leadership style. This is considered a multi-level objective styles of leadership. Much of the literature out there shows similarities between public versus private management. It takes into account many different situations such as demographics, education and position (Vogel & Masal p.1174-1175).

Behavioral is what some people know as transformational leadership. This focuses on the traits, skills and behaviors of a leader. Usually situations work stress and demands create and elicit responses out of transformational leadership. This is not as commonly found in the public sector as many employees found leadership to be more transactional, since it is more situational versus routine, which much of government tends to be focused on. Transactional tends to be common not only from routine, but also because of the strong levels of hierarchy within government (Vogel & Masal p.1175-1176).

Biographical approaches to leadership focuses more on ethics. Ethical issues are a constant scenario in contemporary politics and how those situations are handled are often this through this leadership style. This type of leader is often concerned with public trust, common good and democratic values. Managerial discretion and administrative leadership are also highly emphasized in the category. It is believed that leadership has a moral obligation (Vogel & Masal p.1176-1777).

The reformist approach focuses on and is defined by managerial reforms. This quadrant or approach works a lot with organizational theory. This leadership approach looks at “New Public Management,” which takes a look at issues such as civil society and market economy making it cross-sector. There is a strong emphasis on innovation and change. There is also an emphasis on local competencies and global reform. There is also a look at cost versus benefit. Often leaders can also use administrative reforms to pursue their political agendas (Vogel & Masal p.1777-1778).

Leadership styles to be effective there are a couple of public sector leadership styles that are common. One is Administrative leadership. This is embedded into traditional hierarchy dealing with administrative functions and integrating innovation. The other is adaptive leadership, which seeks to integrate new ideas and changing plans. When combining these two functions ere is hybrid known as Enabled Leadership. This style of leadership serves ass a buffer and can work merging new and old systems, revealing conflict and connects members. This type of leader protects dissident voices from external politics meanwhile reducing conflict and tension. “Leadership can create the context for innovative ideas and new ways of working to flourish (Murphy, Rhodes, Meek, & Denyer, 2017 p.694).”

Coaching and feedback as pointed out in Seidle’s study is that it requires self-awareness. This is why many leaderships trainings have introduced psychology tools to help people understand different styles of workers and personalities. True Colors, Meyer Briggs and Emotional Intelligence are examples of this type of work from personal experience of leadership trainings.


Vogel and Masal say that much of the literature out there focuses on universalism of leadership. There needs to be more extensive research on actual “public leadership.  There also needs to be more studies that cross references public leadership in other cultures outside of North America. Another aspect in the literature that was analyzed found that it was focused on the leader, but very little on the “public follower.” This suggests by looking at demands put on the followers would help understand more about leadership.

We do know transformational leadership has an impact on employee performance as a motivator along with public service motivation as pointed out by Caillier. This leads to also looking at education and training being a part of developing skills for leadership. Although transformational leadership is only one aspect and not the preferred leadership style when handling crises.

When thinking about enabling leadership “social and political pressures imposed by the context were converted to an advantage (Murphy, Rhodes, Meek, & Denyer, 2017 p.695).” An enabler leader seek and is able to coordinate and formalize networks and enable informal networks. This might be compared to other references as collaborative leadership mentioned in other literature. The idea of networking people together for a common cause. What this theory does show is there is no linear form of leadership.

Seidle pointed out that money spent on leadership training can be well spent leading to overall productivity, however there was on cautionary remark that leaders that deal with financial issues, spend more time dealing with money than leading the organizations to reach goals, taking time away on focusing on leadership itself (Seidle, Fernandez, Perry, 2016 p.611).


  • Vogel, R., & Masal, D. (2015). Public Leadership: A review of the literature and framework for future research. Public Management Review17(8), 1165–1189. https://doi.org/10.1080/14719037.2014.895031
  • Kapucu, N., & Ustun, Y. (2018). Collaborative Crisis Management and Leadership in the Public Sector. International Journal of Public Administration41(7), 548–561. https://doi.org/10.1080/01900692.2017.1280819
  • Esther Thaara Muoria, Dr. Hazel Gachoka Gachunga, & Dr. Anthony W. Waititu. (2013). Education and training as Successful strategies employed by women to accede to leadership positions in the public sector in kenya. International Journal of Business and Social Research , Vol 2, Iss 4, Pp 295-308 (2013), (4), 295.
  • Caillier, J. G. (2014). Toward a Better Understanding of the Relationship Between Transformational Leadership, Public Service Motivation, Mission Valence, and Employee Performance: A Preliminary Study. Public Personnel Management43(2), 218–239. https://doi-org.ezproxy.fau.edu/10.1177/0091026014528478
  • Murphy, J., Rhodes, M. L., Meek, J. W., & Denyer, D. (2017). Managing the Entanglement: Complexity Leadership in Public Sector Systems. Public Administration Review77(5), 692–704. https://doi-org.ezproxy.fau.edu/10.1111/puar.12698
  • Seidle, B., Fernandez, S., & Perry, J. L. (2016). Do Leadership Training and Development Make a Difference in the Public Sector? A Panel Study. Public Administration Review76(4), 603–613. https://doi-org.ezproxy.fau.edu/http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291540-6210/issues
  • Larat, F. (2017). Developing an Integrated and Comprehensive Training Strategy for Public Sector Leaders: The French Experience. Teaching Public Administration35(1), 88–104. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.fau.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cookie,url,uid&db=eric&AN=EJ1140120&site=eds-live&scope=site
  • Chan Lee, Dongwon Jeon, Wooseok Kim, & Jaeeun Lee. (2017). Evaluating Training for New Government Officials: A Case Study Using the Success Case Method. Public Personnel Management46(4), 419–444. https://doi-org.ezproxy.fau.edu/10.1177/0091026017730382
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