Leadership Dilemma in Public Organizations

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Leadership can take different forms and have certain peculiarities in private and public settings. Leaders should consider the peculiarities of employees’ behaviors in the public sector to choose the right leadership style and create teams that attain organizational goals. This paper includes a brief analysis of a particular case of a new leader, Annie, working in the State Department of Wildlife Purchasing, who faces certain challenges related to her leadership.

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Annie’s Source of Power

It has been acknowledged that leaders’ power is often based on a specific source. For instance, French and Raven offered five bases of power that included legitimate, expert, coercive, reward, and referent power (Denhardt et al., 2019). Based on the case study, Annie can rely on one source of power only. She is a legitimate leader as she was promoted to the leadership position by the director of purchasing, Esther.

She tried to ground her authority on reward, but Peter, the assistant director, who used to be Annie’s mentor, did not let her do it. This situation also suggests that she cannot exercise coercive power as Peter would be able to cancel her decision. Annie’s power is unlikely to be based on expertise as employees address Peter when they need some advice. Referent power is not an option (since people do not display positive emotions and attitudes) as well, although the data regarding other employees’ attitudes towards the new leader are not provided in the case study.

Other Factors Contributing to the Leader’s Issues

Factors Affecting the Situation

In addition to power relationships, organizational factors have an impact on the situation. One of the apparent peculiarities of the organization is the lack of a clear distribution of responsibilities. Peter addresses other supervisors even when the issue lies within the scope of Annie’s responsibilities. Other supervisors must be able to intervene and manage aspects that are Anni’s responsibility. This problem can be solved effectively, and Annie is able to manage it. Employees (and especially leaders) must have clearly described responsibilities and roles, which saves the organization from ambiguity and overlapping projects (Empson, 2017). In order to address this kind of problem, Annie can become an agent of change, initiating the introduction of clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as spheres of each leader’s focus.

Actions to Take

Annie may address Esther with a plan to improve organizational culture and enhance teams’ performance. She can collaborate with the three supervisors to ensure the acceptance of this change. It is possible to make sure that each supervisor stays within the boundaries of their responsibilities by creating policies regarding the need for the approval of a particular supervisor in certain cases. This change will be instrumental in addressing Annie’s issues, but it will also be beneficial for the entire company as well.

Leadership Approach to be Utilized in Annie’s Current Leadership Position

Values-Based Leadership

In the current position, Annie needs comparatively quick steps and solutions, so she needs to use the values-based leadership style. This approach implies the focus on major principles when leaders and followers share similar values that are consistent with organizational core values (Denhardt et al., 2019). Annie should articulate her values to her subordinates and encourage them to follow her. Clearly, the goals and standards she would promote must be consistent with the values of the organization and its goals. It is also critical to make sure that employees’ morals and standards are considered as well. This is the most effective approach to be used as Annie can easily find shared values and concentrate on them. The utilization of this approach is common in the public sector as people are often motivated to achieve specific goals associated with the common good or addressing the needs of a particular group of people.

Transformational Leadership

Although transformational leadership may seem the obvious choice for any organization, it is hardly applicable in Annie’s current situation. Transformational leadership is based on leaders’ authority that can be based on different attributes, including expertise (Nooradi et al., 2017). Annie’s expertise seems to be questioned, so she needs to earn her subordinates’ trust by displaying her abilities. Thus, the transformational approach can follow the successful use of values-based leadership in Anni’s case.

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The Relationship Between Power and Leadership in Public and Private Sectors

The basic difference between public and private organizations is related to their primary goals. The latter are created to gain profit, while the former aim at addressing issues that are apparent in communities or the entire country (Denhardt et al., 2019). Importantly. Private organizations may be created by individuals who remain in the leading position or appoint people to the leading position. Leaders in public organizations are often appointed by managers, not owners. Moreover, public organizations are always transparent and closely (or directly) supervised by officials. In a sense, public companies are visible to the community in all areas of their functioning. People expect that the operations of these companies will be based on the principles of accountability and responsibility. This clear public control is often smaller or even minimal in the private sector. Private companies try to be more transparent to develop a favorable image in the community. These peculiarities form the basis of the difference between the relationship between power and leadership in the two sectors.

First, in many cases, leaders working for private companies may feel free to act in a way they find appropriate without the need to consider public opinion or strict governmental control. The number of situations when such freedom is available to leaders in non-profit organizations is limited. It is possible to define the relationship between power and leadership in the public context as responsible leadership based on power restricted by governmental regulations and communities’ values. Leaders should act within the limits of these standards and expectations, trying to achieve public good in their area. There is no focus on profit or similar goals that are often clearly established. Public leadership is associated with attaining more abstract goals, such as improved educational levels, better public health, and so on. In the private sector, the relationship between power and leadership is more straightforward. Leaders’ power may be limited, to a certain extent, by shareholders or potential customers.


To sum up, leadership in the public sector is somewhat different from the for-profit context. The case of Annie, who is struggling with being an effective leader, sheds light on some aspects of public leadership. The leader can facilitate the development of an effective organizational culture based on shared values, which can be a more difficult task in private companies. Of course, a leader in all areas (be it a public or private sector) has to be an expert able to inspire and motivate followers to achieve the established goals.


Denhardt, R. B., Denhardt, J. V., Aristigueta, M. P., & Rawlings, K. C. (2019). Managing human behavior in public and nonprofit organizations (5th ed.). CQ Press.

Empson, L. (2017). Leading professionals: Power, politics, and prima donnas. Oxford University Press.

Nooradi, M., Nia, H. B., & Ouliaey, A. (2017). Are manager’s bases of power related to job satisfaction? Journal of Management and Accounting Studies, 5(3), 71–75.

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BusinessEssay. (2022) 'Leadership Dilemma in Public Organizations'. 8 September.


BusinessEssay. 2022. "Leadership Dilemma in Public Organizations." September 8, 2022. https://business-essay.com/leadership-dilemma-in-public-organizations/.

1. BusinessEssay. "Leadership Dilemma in Public Organizations." September 8, 2022. https://business-essay.com/leadership-dilemma-in-public-organizations/.


BusinessEssay. "Leadership Dilemma in Public Organizations." September 8, 2022. https://business-essay.com/leadership-dilemma-in-public-organizations/.