P09 Holding Out for Heroes? The Role of Public Leadership in Turbulent Times

Corresponding chair

Rudolf Metz (rudolf.metz@uni-corvinus.hu)

Review group chairs

Rich Callahan (rfcallahan@usfca.edu), Tim Mau (tmau@uoguelph.ca) and Karin Lasthuizen (karin.lasthuizen@vuw.ac.nz)

Rudolf Metz1&2, Moniek Akerboom3, Rich Callahan4, Jean Hartley5, Ben Kuipers3, Karin Lasthuizen6, Alessandro Sancino5&8, Tim Mau9

(1 Corvinus University of Budapest, HU; 2 Centre for Social Sciences, HU; 3 Leiden University, NL; 4 University of San Francisco, US; 5 The Open University, UK; 6. Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington, NZ; 7 University of Milan-Bicocca, IT; 8 University of Guelph, US)


Governments are living from crisis to crisis. Complex and wicked challenges occur simultaneously across a diverse range of issues such as wars, energy and economic crisis, global pandemics, climate emergency, and migration. Such an environment calls for (more effective and efficient) ‘heroic’ or ‘strong’ leadership not just from politicians, public servants, and local governments but also from civil society. However, often these leaders do not see or understand the challenges and the difficulties of the people or are unable to exercise leadership. This general frustration can make citizens step up, take the initiative, or even support populist politicians to propose radical answers and solutions. Examining the impact of leadership on society and communities expands the understanding of whether and how public leadership can make a difference. 

This panel organized by the Public and Political Leadership (PUPOL) academic network calls for papers to investigate the role, processes, and impact of public and political leadership in responding to contemporary complex and wicked societal challenges at any level, from the micro to the macro. We will focus on public leadership, defined broadly as leadership or leader-follower cooperation/relationship in the public sphere (Hartley 2018), dealing with collective problems and/or opportunities across sectors. We welcome both theoretical and empirical contributions with a range of well-articulated methodologies.

Some of the topics that are particularly welcome are the following, but we are open to any relevant work which studies political, managerial and community leadership for the public sphere:

  • The relationship between public leadership, collaborative governance, and strategic management;
  • Differences and/or similarities of forms of political, administrative, and community leadership;
  • Public leaders facing internal, organizational, and policy challenges in any sector;
  • The role of leadership in enhancing the salience of purpose in public organizations and partnerships;
  • Public leadership responses to external challenges (Covid-19, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, economic and energy crises), including comparative analysis across and within nations
  • Leaders under political stress: expectations for being populist/popular and technocratic/expert in extraordinary times;
  • Ethical leadership and the role of compassion in political and public leadership responses to crises;
  • Place-based and collaborative approaches to public leadership;
  • The role of followership and the impacts of social networks and media on leadership.

Abstract information:

We are calling for short but informative abstracts containing the purpose, nature (empirical/theoretical), main question(s), and methodology of the conference paper. Please also include the names of all contributors, the presenter, their affiliations, and email addresses.