Leadership, Coordination, and Power in Three Public Administrations: Halifax, Edmonton, and Vancouver
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Coordinating transportation and land use planning is a growing challenge, especially as planning documents proliferate. Good leadership could effectively address the problem; however, the context can disempower leaders and their ability to coordinate. I study the complex relationship between leaders’ role in coordination and organizational context, contributing to studies of leaders in public administration. I investigate where power lies in the relationship: with the organizational context or with individual leaders? The concepts of traditional leadership (power concentrated with leaders) and non-traditional leadership (power dispersed among leaders) help locate the place of power in the relationship. I use interpretive discourse analysis and comparative analysis to study interviews done in 2014 with planning professionals from Halifax, NS; Edmonton, AB; and Vancouver, BC. The interview respondents' perceptions suggest that context can affect leadership in several ways that influence coordination while leadership can also change the context. Respondents saw high level leaders, especially city managers and council, as having the greatest power to influence plan coordination. Respondents saw planners as good leaders of coordination yet the lower positions in which planners tend to operate within administrations can hinder their abilities to lead. I divide context into three categories to present findings: 1) the regional context may affect high level leaders’ approach which led respondents to feel more or less empowered, 2) the administrative context affects leaders and in turn is altered by high level leaders, and 3) the cultural context affects leaders and leaders affect the cultural context, particularly through their perceptions of leadership and coordination. Respondents perceived that the organizational context controls and distributes most of the power; however, power ultimately comes from the leaders and other actors within the organization because their perceptions of (or belief in) the organizational context create and perpetuate power relations. Leadership, power, and organizations are all socially-constructed. Traditional and non-traditional leadership theories explain various aspects of leadership practices in the study areas.
Wheeler, C. (2015). Leadership, Coordination, and Power in Three Public Administrations: Halifax, Edmonton, and Vancouver. Retrieved from http://theoryandpractice.planning.dal.ca/multiple-plans/student-research.html