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Leadership: Leaders, Followers, Environments by Art Padilla

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What and where is public leadership?

Public leadership is a type of leadership associated with specific sorts of organizations. Its distinguishing features include challenges in defining the organizational mission, range and diversity of stakeholders, and levels of transparency, and stakeholder scrutiny. Public leadership is found in two broad types of public or nonprivate organizations:

  • Nonprofit agencies and institutions, such as universities, charities (Red Cross, Easter Seals), social service (Alcoholics Anonymous, Girl Scouts); health services; foundations; and cultural organizations (symphony orchestras, museums). About 9 million people are employed in these organizations.121
  • Public organizations, entities created, funded, and regulated by the public sector. These include the federal, state, county, and local governments. About 30 million people are employed in those three sectors. Here the distinction between politically elected leaders and appointed leaders emerges.

Although there are notable differences among the entities listed above, all of these may be considered as “public” organizations. Public leadership might also refer (as in the case of Yoani Sánchez, see Leadership Spotlight on the next page) to leadership without formal organizations, but this is a rather singular example.

Public leadership is more than just leading a public organization.122 It entails dealing with interconnected social problems among many different stakeholders (i.e., individuals and groups ...

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