Modernizing leadership through private participation: a marriage of inconvenience with public ethos?

Philip Arthur Woods

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    14 Citations (Scopus)


    What distinctive leadership changes does the private sector bring to the running of public sector educational services? This paper contributes to an understanding of the issues raised by this question by studying the senior management of a private company running services for an English local education authority. The paper explores evidence of modernizing leadership, as well as the extent to which a traditional public ethos is sustained or re-interpreted within modernization. Analysis is based principally on interviews with senior management, but is also informed by die larger data set collected as part of the case study of this public-private partnership. The paper suggests that modernizing leadership, as understood in terms of the dominant policy discourse, is not found in its pure form, but is modified by a continuing orientation to an older public ethos. A model is proposed-an adaptive public service model of leadership-which reflects the style of leadership forged by senior management. Issues, dangers, paradoxes, and contradictions inherent in the model and the practice it represents are highlighted. The model is not put forward as an ideal to follow, but as a means of highlighting the issues that arise where modernization and older ideals of public service encounter each other.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)643-672
    Number of pages29
    JournalJournal of Education Policy
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


    • leadership
    • modernization
    • public ethos
    • public-private partnerships


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