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Publicness as an antecedent of transformational leadership: the case of Norway

International Review of Administrative Sciences, 83 (1), 2017, p 23 – 42


Dag Ingvar Jacobsen


A large number of empirical studies have shown a wide range of positive effects of transformational leadership, which is arguably the dominating leadership paradigm in the last two decades. In this study, we ask whether this type of leadership is as common in public as in private organizations. Through a survey, the leadership style of 2488 leaders in Norwegian organizations with more than ten employees was mapped out. Focus is set on whether the occurrence of transformational leadership varies according to an organization’s publicness. It is hypothesized that the effect of publicness on transformational leadership will be mediated through bureaucratization, centralization, professionalization, pro-social motivation and gender composition. The study controls for organization size and task, variables often missing in comparisons of public and private organizations. The main finding is that publicness has no direct effect on transformational leadership when controlling for main task, organizational size and the leader’s gender. However, it does affect transformational leadership indirectly through bureaucratization, professionalization and gender composition. Based on the findings, more general implications for comparing public and private organizations are discussed.