Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Public leadership as a balancing act? How leaders’ context influences leadership

Public leadership received increasing attention, but we still do not understand how the context of public leaders affects leadership. This research project delves into public leaders’ perceptions of the leadership situations they find themselves in, which are characterised by multiplicity – one could think of multiple goals, tasks and interests that play a role. Moreover, how do leaders perceive their leadership role? And how they adapt their behaviour to the situation?

2016 - 2020
Marieke van der Hoek
Universiteit Leiden Universiteit Leiden
Jouke de Vries Grant


Instead of trying to explain organisational outcomes, this project helps us understand how public leadership is shaped. The studies will shed light on leaders’ perceptions of their context and role and on situation-sensitive leadership adaptation to develop theory.

The project starts with an exploratory phase using interviews and observations, followed by vignette interviews and a survey to test the developed propositions. The empirical work will be done within the university sector. Combining the findings, we will have a better understanding when and why leaders choose to act upon contextual factors, which contributes to the literature on public leadership.

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