Leadership talk fits the times. It epitomises contemporary individualism. The topic provides even the most dispassionate and bland bureaucrat with persuasive stories about real-life ‘heroes’. The resourceful people (the dynamic, wise, persistent, proactive and the entrepreneurial) who can transform ineffective, wasteful or unethical organisations, or turn good ideas into enormously profitable endeavours. As with any success story, one needs to question: is it all true? The answer here is yes and no. Yes, there are kernels of truth in many of these stories. On the other hand, many of the sweeping claims of contemporary leadership talk are debatable. In this paper, Prof Paul 't Hart argues that we need to put leadership in perspective. More, stronger or `better’ leadership by individuals will not remedy the current crisis of public governance in many Western countries. Today, as much as in any other era, we need prudent leaders and strong institutions that ensure the dynamic power leaders can wield is both harnessed and checked.
These Occasional Papers are jointly published by ANZSOG and the (former) Victorian State Services Authority.
't Hart, P. (2010). Public sector leadership: Moving beyond mythology. SSA/ANZSOG Occasional Paper, 3. Melbourne: ANZSOG.