Kamis, 16 Januari 2020

Book Review: Organization Theory and the Public Sector: Instrument, Culture and Myth

(Coordinator of Pandjer School – agung.widhianto@outlook.com)


A. Public Leadership Meaning
Gaining a wealth of insights from this book, public leadership has multifaceted meanings derived from distinct theoretical perspectives. Firstly, instrumental perspective tends to comprehend public leadership as a means for leaders to accomplish public goals with what may be regarded as rational calculation (22–23; 34). This perspective is bifurcated. The former is assumed that a public leader is rational and self-interested to exert the authority invested in to hierarchically control the organization (hierarchical variant). However, the rest is assumed that the public leader often deals with incomplete information, dissimilar interests against other actors, and limited resources, thus he/she needs to enact compromises in the form of articulation of interests and negotiations (negotiation-based variant). Secondly, cultural perspective that more emphasizes on the importance of norms, values, and cultures to influence public leadership to run for public interests, chiefly in decision-making (39–41). Given that public leadership requires and is able to create informal norms and values for its existential role for public, it is provided and guided by a set of internal customary features which so-called institutionalized organization. Thirdly, myth perspective which considers public leadership has existing values and norms embedded in the organizations, yet, it needs to adapt with the external environment to elicit public legitimacy and identity, which can be conducted through imitating and imaging (58–59). Ultimately, I argue that instrumental perspective is rational-choice theory-inspired with a highly emphasis on ‘logic of consequences’, whilst the cultural and myth perspectives are clearly new institutionalism-inspired with a highly emphasis on ‘logic of appropriateness’.

B. Important Factors of Public Leadership
  1. Political Authority as the source of legitimacy to run the public affairs on behalf of popular interests (6–7). It determines how public leaders make decision-making whether politically legitimated. However, it is also attributed by rule laws in connections with why, how, by whom to use the authority.
  2. Public goods as the core business of public leadership in order to work for ensuring the fulfilment of the rights of public (8), such as protection, health service, education, employment, and so forth. It is also understood as goals in public leadership (86–88).
  3. Public Organization, where collective problems are addressed to meet collective solutions on a minimum service standard basis for all citizens regardless of their social, economic, and political affiliations. At this point, public organization is designed to serve every citizen to undertake multifunctional works (7; 165–166), that is, to deal with quarrels of political interests based on representation (more political) and with professionalism based on efficiency and effectiveness (more bureaucratic).
  4. Elective leaders who run the public organizations equipped by strongest formal authority to account for public goals, whether determined constitutionally, politically, or circumstantially. Apart from steering or coordinating a public organization with specific roles and responsibility, public leadership also involves dissimilar hierarchical in term of technicalities and specialities to support elective leaders. The former is administrative-intermediate level which supports elective leaders as the top decision-maker in communicating between normative and practical concerns, while the rest is operative level which implements the decisions and policies in the grassroots vis-à-vis the people (106).
  5. Context, in which public leadership is being enacted through measurable combinations between instrumental, cultural, and myth perspectives. This makes the public leadership is increasingly burgeoning to analyse since this is critical to assess the leadership style.

C. Benefits of Closed and Open Definitions in the of Public Leadership
The study of public leadership is of importance to understand how public sector is governed in different ways. While closed definition is beneficial considerably to delve analytical understandings, yet, I prefer to use open definition emanates from public leaders to not only subscribe the earlier and existing concepts. Rather, it is crucial to test or even to challenge the closed definitions by coping them with open definitions which comprise more practical, meaningful contextual in the field. Nevertheless, the closed definition can be leveraged as an entry-point, thus we can start to find out open definition since public leadership is complex in term of actors, specific sectors, and political system.

Above all, in brief, the book I read is useful to elicit some light of public leadership since it provides gradual learning steps with comprehendible language. Hence, I am more inspired to explore public leadership concepts in more grounded way, building on the discussed concepts of this book.

Christensen, T., Lægreid., P., Roness, P.G. and Røvik, K.A. (2007) Organization Theory and the Public Sector: Instrument, culture and myth, New York: Routledge.

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