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Transformational Leadership and Public Service Motivation: Driving Individual and Organizational Performance


Laurie E. Paarlberg is an assistant professor in the public administration program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she teaches courses in nonprofit management and public administration. Her research focuses on the changing paradigms of management in public and nonprofit organizations, and has appeared in International Public Management Journal, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, and Public Administration Review.

Bob Lavigna is vice president of research for the Partnership for Public Service. He also served as administrator of the Wisconsin civil service system, and with the U.S. Government Accountability Office. He is a former Public Official of the Year (Governing magazine), and past president of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources and the American Society for Public Administration Section on Personnel. He holds a bachelor's degree in public affairs from George Washington University and a master's degree in human resources from Cornell University.


Despite growing evidence about prosocial motivations and their effects on employee behavior, how can new public service motivation research translate into more effective management practices—which, so far, regrettably remain underdeveloped? Increasingly, public service motivation studies have moved from understanding what motivates public servants to exploring how public service motives influence performance. Similarly, greater attention is now paid to the practices of transformational leadership. Drawing on concepts from transformational leadership, this essay explores how managers can harness the positive aspects of public service motivation to enhance employee and organizational performance and outlines strategies that can help managers incorporate public service motivation values across management systems.