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The historical aversion to effective leadership in American public administration literature imposes a troubling controversy over the appropriateness of nonelected public leaders being allowed to exercise the authority and capability to make decisions regarding the direction, focus, and intensity of their organizational efforts. Using principles from distributed, transformational, and authentic leadership theories, we propose a new public leadership theory that addresses the emerging unique characteristics of the public sector and test this theory using three administrations of the Federal Human Capital Survey. Results show strong support for the application of these theories in the public service. We advocate for the research and teaching of modern leadership of these theories in the public administration field. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.