Senior bureaucrats in central agencies in Westminster jurisdictions frequently give keynote speeches as a part of their official function. What are these administrative leaders talking about, and to whom, and why does it matter? This paper will seek to answer those questions through the lens of public value theory by considering whether ‘public rhetorical leadership’ by senior bureaucrats is a legitimate contribution to the search for public value, and what challenges such behaviour may present to good governance. The speeches of senior bureaucrats in four Westminster jurisdictions – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom – are examined as examples of how bureaucratic ‘public rhetorical leadership’ is currently being exercised. The paper concludes that the way in which senior bureaucrats exercise their rhetorical power can have significant implications for the implementation of policy, and for questions of bureaucratic accountability.