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Management vs. Leadership in Public Organizations

written by: Vikas Vij•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 1/2/2011

There are some major challenges facing management vs leadership in public organizations. There is a need to introduce cost efficiencies and achieve successful public-private partnerships in order to enhance job creation and add to the strength of the economy.

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    Key Role of Leadership and Management in Public Sector Organizations

    Public Sector Organization Public sector organizations are usually very large-sized, service-oriented organizations operating within the public policy framework. Management vs leadership in public organizations presents several key challenges in the changing global economic scenario. The public organization or agency of today can no longer afford to remain ridden by size-induced inertia or complacency arising out of political protection. There is immense economic pressure on these organizations to undergo a major transformation and follow efficient management policies and practices like the private companies. Therefore, capable leadership and management have become crucial to see these organizations through transformational change successfully. Strategic management and leadership approaches are necessary to facilitate such organizational changes and make these public organizations more effective, swift, and efficient.

    Importance of Effective Leadership in Public Organizations

    The larger an organization gets, the greater is its need for strong leadership in order to maintain cohesion and consistency of purpose across the organization. Without effective leadership, it becomes very difficult to have successful and efficient management. This is even more acutely true in the case of public sector organizations because of their public service orientation and a slightly different style of functioning compared to the conventional private sector company. The demonstrable capabilities of the top leader as well as departmental heads in a public sector organization are crucial to motivate the large number of employees at every level.

    Visionary leadership in such organizations is critical in today’s economic conditions when the entire public sector is passing through a transformational phase. People’s expectations from such organizations have changed, and they need to become more proactive and responsive to manage change successfully. The entire public sector in general faces a broad range of challenges that can be met only when there is a strong and experienced leadership to show the way and lead the organization from the front.

    Challenges of Management vs Leadership in Public Organizations

    Strategic management and leadership in public sector organizations of today need to resolve various key challenges that the sector faces. In a majority of such organizations there is an increasing need to downsize and introduce operational efficiencies. This is a difficult and painful transition that needs to be managed with sensitivity and judiciousness. There is also a pressing need for greater accountability of the employees and managers, linking performance with career growth, and reducing bureaucratic style of functioning. Cost cutting, elimination of wasteful expenditures, and effective fiscal management are crucial to practically all public organizations.

    Another key challenge for effective management of public organizations is to introduce entrepreneurial ideas wherever possible. Privatization of services, when it is more cost effective and improves the quality of service at the same time, needs to be introduced. Outsourcing and contracting out of various services also needs to be adopted to make the organization more nimble-footed and efficient. At a macro-economic level, the mission of the public sector organizations is to boost job creation by fostering meaningful partnerships with business and industry. Achieving these high objectives and overcoming various challenges that are in the way require exemplary leadership and strong management in public organizations.

    Difference Betweeen Leadership and Management

    Management makes use of various scientific management principles and tools to guide and motivate people to produce the desired results for the company. Management is involved at every step and in every aspect of the business organization in order to ensure that the collective efforts of the people in the organization are effective, cohesive, and consonant with the vision, mission, and objectives of the organization. Leadership, on the other hand, uses the personal charisma and exemplary performance of the leader to motivate people to follow a common direction or path shown by the leader. Both management and leadership are equally important for an organization to achieve its long term goals and objectives.

    Photo Credit: sachyn