Public Sector Leadership
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Public Sector Leadership

International Challenges and Perspectives

Edited by Jeffrey A. Raffel, Peter Leisink and Anthony E. Middlebrooks

The authors of this book define the issues facing public authorities and organizations in a range of developed nations as they address the challenges of the 21st century. They examine an array of ways leaders across these nations are addressing these challenges. The result is a comprehensive analysis of ways to improve leadership in the public sector and of the role of political and administrative leaders in shaping the future of the public sector. The overriding question addressed by this volume is how public leadership across the globe addresses new challenges (e.g., security, financial, demographic), new expectations of leaders (e.g., New Public Management, multi-sector service provision), and what leadership means in the new public sector.
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Chapter 3: Explaining Radical Policy Change Against All Odds: The Role of Leadership, Institutions, Program Design and Policy Windows

Harald Sætren


Harald Sætren INTRODUCTION By the mid-1990s Britain was considered the undisputed leader in Western Europe, having initiated and carried through large-scale reforms in the public sector since 1980, and ranked second only to New Zealand in a global perspective (Naschold 1996, p. 23). The precipitating events to this more recent reform era, nowadays commonly referred to as new public management (NPM), manifested themselves somewhat earlier in Britain than New Zealand. Thus, the claim that Britain was the cradle of the NPM movement seems quite plausible. Before 1980 things were quite different. Britain was a laggard rather than a leader in terms of public sector reforms. Obstacles to substantial change in well established institutions and practices were considered almost insuperable (Chapman and Greenaway 1980; Garrett 1980; Metcalfe and Richards 1992; Plowden 1980; Ponting 1986). This pessimistic assessment of the British civil service was probably quite accurate given the dismal track records of previous reform efforts. How then can we explain Britain’s transition from laggard to leader in public sector reforms within this relatively short time period? This is the main research question of this chapter. In order to find an answer, we have to go back to the beginning of this new reform period in Britain and identify the crucial events and circumstances that both enabled and triggered the dramatic policy shift that took place. Thus, we have to focus on the Thatcher government that came to power in 1979 with a very ambitious public sector reform program and a...

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