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FRIHUMSAM-Fri prosj.st. hum og sam

Public leadership, organizational performance, and trust in government

Alternative title: Offentlig ledelse, organisatorisk prestasjon, og tillit til forvaltningen

Awarded: NOK 8.0 mill.

The administrative leaders of public organizations play an important role in the governing of democratic societies. They ensure that political decisions are implemented in an effective and unbiased way. They are the face of their organization in public, and they are considered highly influential for organizational performance. However, not much is known about who administrative leaders are and whether they make a difference for organizational performance. PART studies whether organizations with administrative leaders who are 'sector switchers' - those with a background in business or in politics - perform differently compared to leaders with a public sector background. The professional background of administrative leaders does not only matter for organizational performance. The recruitment of leaders with business or political backgrounds is also likely to generate distrust among citizens, who may question the fairness of recruitment procedures and leaders' competence for overseeing public organizations. PART gathers systematic knowledge about the professional background of administrative leaders in arm's length agencies and state-owned enterprises in Norway and 10 countries in different parts of Europe over a 30-year period. PART analyses the effects of leadership background by comparing organizational performance under different types of leaders. An important assumption in the project is that the motivation of employees and how they set priorities are important drivers of organizational performance. To understand how leadership background affects employees' motivation and priority-setting, PART uses existing survey data and conducts original surveys among public officials in Norway through the Norwegian Panel of Public Administrators. PART analyses the effect of recruitment procedures and leaders' qualifications on citizens' trust in bureaucracy through survey experiments. This is a unique and novel approach through which PART will generate high-quality knowledge to improve public sector performance and enhance citizens? trust in government institutions.

The leaders of public organizations play an important role in the governing of democratic societies. They ensure that political decisions are implemented in an efficient, effective, and unbiased way. Through their decision-making, leaders affect organizational performance, and ultimately, the performance of democracy. PART studies the impact of administrative leadership on organizational performance and on citizens' trust in government. Its main assumption is that public leaders are increasingly recruited from outside the public sector, either from politics or from the private sector. However, we lack systematic knowledge about the pervasiveness of mixed careers and about their implications. Through a systematic analysis of leadership backgrounds and the performance of agencies and state-owned enterprises in Norway, the project analyses how leadership background makes a difference for organizational performance. The motivation of employees and how they set priorities are important antecedents of organizational performance. Through survey experiments with public officials and an innovative analysis of existing survey data, PART analyses the underlying causal mechanisms connecting leadership and organizational performance. The legitimacy of democracy depends on citizens’ trust in governmental institutions. Administrative leaders are the ‘face’ of the state in their area of responsibility. The recruitment of leaders with mixed career backgrounds is susceptible to generate mistrust among citizens regarding the fairness of recruitment procedures and leaders’ competence for overseeing public organizations. The project theorizes and tests the effect of different forms of recruitment procedures and leaders’ qualifications through survey experiments with citizens. This is a unique approach, putting the project at the forefront of public sector research. PART's results will help to improve public sector performance and enhance citizen trust in government institutions.

Funding scheme:

FRIHUMSAM-Fri prosj.st. hum og sam