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Examining the Nature and Significance of Leadership in Government Organizations


Tracey Trottier is an assistant professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University South Bend. She received her doctorate in public affairs from the University of Central Florida. Her research interests are leadership in public organizations, public management, organizational behavior, and community-based research.

Montgomery Van Wart is a professor and chair at California State University, San Bernardino. As a scholar, he has more than 50 publications to his credit. His book on leadership, The Dynamics of Leadership: Theory and Practice (M. E. Sharpe, 2005), was designated an Outstanding Academic Title for 2005 by Choice. His recent books on leadership include a new textbook, Leadership in Public Organizations: An Introduction, and an edited volume (with Lisa Dicke), Administrative Leadership in the Public Sector (part of the ASPA Classics series).

XiaoHu Wang teaches public administration courses at the University of Central Florida, specializing in performance management and financial management. He is also interested in methodological issues in public administration research. His recent book is titled Performance Analysis for Public and Nonprofit Organizations (Jones and Bartlett, forthcoming).


Though the mainstream organizational literature has advanced in the last 20 years with the integration of transformational and distributed leadership theories, as well as genuine attempts at comprehensive models, the public sector literature has lagged, especially in utilizing large-scale empirical studies. This study takes advantage of a very large government data set to test the utility of one of the best known theories, the “full range” leadership theory of Bernard Bass. It addresses three important research questions: How inclusive is Bass’s operational definition of leadership? How much of an impact do Bass’s leadership competencies have on follower satisfaction? Finally, how important is transformational leadership compared to transactional leadership in government settings? The results indicate that Bass’s broad definition of leadership comes quite close to capturing what federal employees perceive to be effective leadership. The relationship between good leadership in an organization and follower satisfaction is also presented as an important outcome in the federal government. Finally, both transactional and transformational leadership are perceived as important in the federal government, although transformational leadership is considered slightly more important even after shifting one important factor, individualized consideration, back to the transactional model.