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Leadership and Meaningful Work in the Public Sector


  • Lars G. Tummers is assistant professor of public management and public policy at Erasmus University Rotterdam and visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. He specializes in public leadership, public innovation, and policy implementation. He was awarded the Erasmus University Research Prize in 2013 for excellence in research. He received a Marie Curie Grant to analyze how civil servants cope with stress, combining the psychological and public administration literature. E-mail:
  • Eva Knies is assistant professor of organizational science and human resource management in the School of Governance, Utrecht University. She studied public administration and organizational sciences at Utrecht University. Her 2012 doctoral thesis is titled “Balanced Value Creation: A Longitudinal Study of the Antecedents and Effects of People Management.” Her research focuses on the way in which organizations deal with social transformations in their human resource management and its impact on (public service) performance. E-mail:


There have been many important studies on leadership in the public administration discipline; however, scholarly inquiry still lags behind related disciplines such as psychology and business administration. This article helps fill that gap by analyzing the role that public leaders play in making work more meaningful for their employees, which, in turn, has a positive influence on employee job outcomes. Specifically, the authors analyze the mediating role of work meaningfulness in the relationships between leader-member exchange and organizational commitment, work effort, and work-to-family enrichment. Samples from education, health care, and local government are used. Results show that leadership strongly influences work meaningfulness, which, in turn, influences job outcomes. In addition, the impact and extent of leadership and work meaningfulness are higher in health care and education than in local government. The results emphasize the importance of leadership and meaningful work in the public sector.

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