Introducing the New Public Leadership Framework

Everything exists in a System

What is New Public Leadership?

It is appropriate to begin with the definition of New Public Leadership (Brookes and Grint 2010: 1):.

A form of collective leadership in which public bodies and agencies collaborate in achieving a shared vision based on shared aims and values and distribute this through each organisation in a collegiate way which seeks to promote, influence and deliver improved public value as evidenced through sustained social, environmental and economic well-being within a complex and changing context.

360 degree leadership in the public interest
Putting leadership at the heart of the public interest

Let us break this down further, using four ‘C’s:

  • Collective (an intelligent-led approach):  It is about leaders asking the right questions for the right reasons (public interest).
  • Collaborative (shared vision): Working together across networks based on shared aims and the sharing of ideas and resources.
  • Collegiate (shared and distributed aims, values and actions): Working within your organisation but breaking down barriers.  Knowing and understand the ‘worlds’ within which different teams and departments operate.
  • Contextual (shared outcomes in the public interest): Putting public value at the heart of what public leaders do, at all times.  This requires public leaders to both engage with and encourage the participation of public leadership stakeholders.

New Public Leadership (NPL) is a value and behavioural based approach to leadership that seeks to address the complexity and associated difficulties of assessing leadership in a collective sense rather than the previous literature and research that generally considers individual leadership and focuses on traits and characteristics.



Introducing the New Public Leadership Framework

In exploring the whole systems approach in an earlier section the complexity of Collective Leadership was highlighted. Diving deeper into the complexity of public leadership, the contexts of NPL – in alignment with the universal principles of synergy – were illustrated as follows:.

Whole Systems as a four faced cube
The complexity of leadership aligned to the external and internal contexts of New Public Leadership in the form of a Whole Systems approach.

The New Public Leadership Framework (NPL) has been developed based on extensive research using a realistic evaluation framework, which has been adopted throughout. In line with the principles of realistic evaluation there were three areas that were investigated in seeking to answer the overall research question; can collective leadership be selfless? The research question and aims were consistently applied throughout.

The three areas are:

    • Context: This concerns the conditions that are needed for a measure or intervention to trigger mechanisms to produce particular outcome patterns.


    • Mechanism: What is it about a measure or intervention, which may lead it to have a particular outcome in a given context?


    • Outcome patterns: What are the practical effects produced by causal mechanisms being triggered in a given context?


(Pawson and Tilley, 1997).

Applying and Evaluating Public Leadership

The RE framework is not restricted to the evaluation of public leadership.  It has also proved valuable in aligning the conceptual framework (the 20 Ps) with both practice and the development of leaders.  This is illustrated below.

Click on the image above to enlarge it

The illustration above highlights how we have aligned leadership development to practice and evaluation, which is our virtuous cycle of research-informing-development-informss p-practice.  The alignment forms the bedrock of our approach to the development of collective leaders and the assessment of both individual and collective leadership practice.  This rooms or ‘leadership quo modo’ (the ‘how’ of leadership). We achieve this through our LINKS360 process of leadership development, supported by applied leadership challenges (ALC) at all levels of organisations and networks. The ALC is grounded on the principles of action learning. You can read more about this in the Leadership Quomodo section.

Meanwhile, we will continue to explore the CMO configurations in terms of public leadership and the NPL framework particularly. The three key elements of Realistic Evaluation (RE) define the three elements of the model. RE has an explanatory rather than a judgmental focus. It develops a multi-level approach to context-mechanism-outcome (CMO) configurations. This lends itself to this evaluation of leading in the public interest. The focus of the basic evaluative question changes from ‘what works?’, to ‘what is it about this programme or intervention that works for whom in what circumstances? (in this case, the practice of public leadership as a form of collective leadership).

Each of these will be explored in the following pages of this section.

You can navigate through the pages for this section by using these page links

Hover over each of the links to see which page it links to

The Selfless Leader