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  Leadership and Meaningful Work in the Hybrid Public Sector Context

   The Business School

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  Dr Sophie Morrell  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The public sector is operating in an increasingly hybrid context where complex relationships exist between public, private and third sector organisations (White et al., 2021). In the pursuit of delivering efficient and cost-effective public services, governments have sought the business and management acumen of the private sector and the care, compassion and goodwill of the third sector. As a result, policy-making now tends to be delivered through networks of state-society relationships, rather than through traditional hierarchical approaches (Bache, 2003). This setting provides a unique set of opportunities and challenges for leaders and leadership processes, where the navigation of decision-making involves numerous stakeholders – such as workers, service users, managers, the state, unions and governing bodies. Van Wart (2003, p 214; 2013) highlights that this ‘shared-power environment’ creates additional layers of intricacy for public sector leaders, yet relative to the research needs, much more theoretical progress needs to be made on leadership in public sector organisational settings.

Education and healthcare are two public sector contexts that are particularly characterised by meaningful work, where workers often enter into and remain in their profession to be able to make a difference (Tummers and Knies, 2018). Numerous studies have shown the personal costs that, for example, teachers and social care workers make in order to provide the best care to their clients or meet the educational needs of their pupils (for examples see Cunningham, 2008; Baines, 2016; Burrow et al., 2020; Bolton and Laaser, 2020). The moral obligation to make a difference in ones work often chides against the demands of an increasingly marketised public sector where the pressure is on to reduce costs and increase output. The aim of this project is to examine the experiences and perspectives of leadership in education or health/social care (or both) through an in-depth qualitative approach and to offer some recommendations for improved decision-making in public sector leadership contexts that benefits both leaders and followers.

Academic qualifications

A first degree (at least a 2.1) ideally in business management with a good fundamental knowledge of human resource management.

English language requirement

IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s policy are available online.

Essential attributes:

• Experience of fundamental self motivation and project management

• Competent in organising own schedule effectively and solving problems/ finding solutions

• Knowledge of leadership theory

• Good written and oral communication skills

• Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project

• Good time management

Desirable attributes:

Knowledge of research design and data analysis approaches

Business & Management (5)


Bache, I. (2003) Governing through Governance: Education Policy Control under New Labour. Political Studies 51(2), 300-314.
Baines, D. (2016) Moral projects and compromise resistance: resisting uncaring in nonprofit care work. Studies in Political Economy 97(2), 124-142.
Bolton, S. and Laaser, K. (2020) The Moral Economy of Solidarity: A Longitudinal Study of Special Needs Teachers. Work, Employment and Society, 34(1), 55-72.
Burrow, R., Williams, R. and Thomas, D. (2020) Stressed, depressed and Exhausted: Six Years as a Teacher in UK State Education. Work, Employment and Society, 34(5), 949-958.
Cunningham, I. (2008) Employment Relations in the Voluntary Sector. London: Routledge.
Tummers, L. and Knies, E. (2013) Leadership and Meaningful work in the Public Sector. Public Administration Review, 73(6): 859-868.
Van Wart, M. (2003) Public-Sector Leadership Theory: An Assessment. Public Administration Review, 63(2), 214-228.
Van Wart, M. (2013) Administrative Leadership Theory: A Reassessment After 10 Years. Public Administration, 91(3), 521-543.
White, L., Lockett, A., Currie, G. and Hayton, J. (2021) Hybrid Context, Management Practices and Organizational Performance: A Configurational Approach. Journal of Management Studies, 58(3), 718-748.
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 About the Project