Performance management and the demise of leadership

P Carlisle, Barry Loveday

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article discusses the qualities of leadership and contrasts the role of a leader with that of a manger. It analyses the impact of the New Public Management (NPM) regime's performance management strand on leadership in the public sector. The achievement of targets is seen as a measure of political success and analysis is made of the manner in which this is reinforced throughout public organisations. The effects of ‘robust’ performance management techniques are examined and examples given of the negative impacts of quantitative targets. It is argued that the function of the leader is reduced to that of managing the attainment of these centrally set goals. As a result risk-taking and innovation are constrained to that which is required for the achievement of these goals. This is seen as an explanation for the current prevalence of ‘gaming’ ploys and is linked to a drop-in integrity in the pursuit of outputs. It is further argued that the target regime sees the ‘Sovietisation’ of the public sector and a return to the Taylorian values of an industrial past. A brief case study of social service provision illustrates the potential for negative outcomes that may result. This article concludes that when a ‘tick in the box’ is allowed to suffice the qualities of public sector leadership are inevitably reduced and confined to the panopticon of centralised targets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-26
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Leadership in Public Services
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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