Leadership Development Fundamentals

  • Petri Virtanen
  • Marika TammeaidEmail author


The role and approach of public sector leadership change rapidly because everything else is changing around it—public institutions, public organisations, users of public services and the role of the media. This ongoing change calls for new understanding as regards learning mechanisms in relation to public sector leadership, specifically, how and why it takes place. Pragmatist philosophy and complexity theory strongly affect public sector leadership. These conceptual entities offer a fresh way to understand how and why public sector leadership development takes place and why it has to take into account the wide range of criticisms targeted at ‘old-school’ New Public Management and its construction of rational, positivist and quantitative approaches of evidence-based accountability. Good leaders are good because they have developed themselves to be better human beings and better at leading people. To develop yourself as a leader is a conscious act, it is a ‘mindset’ thing, which poses questions about open-mindedness, learning capability, honesty to yourself, interactivity, understanding of the conceptual relation between cause and effect and the skills to conceive of emerging issues from a ‘birds-eye perspective’. This chapter asks how leaders learn while identifying the organisational mechanisms that boost learning—and unlearning. By structural learning, we refer to the mechanisms of those leadership tools and practices which are directly linked, relationally and interwoven with each other, with the structures of public organisations and the positions leaders possess in their organisations (e.g. recruitment principles, rotation and job-switching mechanisms, and position-based requirements which provide an operational framework for public sector leaders to lead people). By dynamic learning mechanisms, we refer to the contents of leadership development tools, derived primarily from the changing mode of the operating environment, from leaders’ own experiences, from the personalities of leaders, learning-by-doing practices and the ways leaders learn and unlearn.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ITLA FoundationHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.University of VaasaVaasaFinland

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