Research report that considers how public service leadership is changing in the era of community empowerment, collaboration and co-production, and how leadership can rise to the challenge.


Graphic with quote from a local authority chief executive stating “Things happen if you empower people... if we want our communities to behave like this, our staff need to be able to behave like this in their jobs as well."As public services move into their next phase of reform it is clear that the leadership and management approaches of the past are no longer fit for purpose. Put simply, the traditional, hierarchical managerial approaches developed for the industrial economies are outmoded and cannot support the development of the types public services required to meet the cultural and social aspirations of Scotland.

The Christie Report provides a helpful context for thinking about the type of leadership required to meet these aspirations.

There is growing sense amongst public sector leaders that Christie has challenged them to rethink their leadership practice and the underlying purpose of their role.

This report concludes that public service leadership needs to continue to move on from the system management approaches of the past to a new approach that develops social cohesion. It argues that in order to achieve the aspirations of Christie these new leadership practices must evolve ‘hand in glove’ with the development of flatter, more collaborative, less regulated, networked mutualistic public service organisations.

But for mutualistic public service organisations to be able to lead the change, rather than rely on national prescription to deliver change, we need to develop new forms of leadership practice.

The findings presented in this report suggest with external support and sophisticated professional learning opportunities public service leadership can rise to the challenge and support the development of a system where self-renewal is generated by public service reticulists in partnership with the communities they serve.

Download the publication

Public Service Leadership: What Works? (PDF)

It is accompanied by two policy briefings:

More details

  • Author: Christopher Chapman, What Works Scotland
  • Publication date: December 2018
  • Publication type: Research report