Digital-Transformational Leadership in the Networked Public Administration
Networked governance via ICT (interformation and communication technologies) promises to modernize state structures. It aims at improving public sector performance, customer-orientation, and principles of open government. The research project "Digital-Transformational Leadership in the Networked Public Administration" examines how leadership can be designed in order to shape the digital transformation in an acceptance-oriented and comprehensive manner. The research focus lies on networked governance approaches characterized by inter-organizational collaboration and interdependent task fulfillment. These approaches are accompanied and reinforced by ICT within and across public organizations as well as by the digital society with which they interact. Networked Public Administration requires a digitally savvy organizational culture that extends to flexible, modularized forms of work and cross-organizational, team-based collaboration. These requirements make leadership even more complex: On the one hand, leadership needs to deal with hierarchical structures and silos that potentially become obsolete or hinder establishing a networked administration. On the other hand, bureaucratic principles remain valid and useful in the everyday business of public administration.
Leadership is supposed to understand and exploit the opportunities of a digital transformation in order to foster a digital, network-affine organizational culture: Automated and modularized work processes are only successful if employees comprehend their added value and use them purposefully and sustainably. In this regard, a beneficial leadership style would seem to be one that promotes bottom-up change and that challenges pre-existing organizational structures and work organization.
In order to outline a network-affine leadership style mediated through technology in the context of interdisciplinary and cross-organizational co-operation, the project seeks to shed light on the following research questions:
- What kind of leadership style and behavior promotes a digital, network-affine organizational culture?
- Which challenges exist for implementing digital-transformational leadership, taking the unique context of public administration into consideration?
- How can tensions between hierarchical and network-based leadership be resolved?
- Which cognitive and motivational factors help to deal with demanding, modularized forms of work and cross-organizational cooperation?
- Which implications can be identified for personnel management in public administration within these networked settings?
It is crucial that employees working at and across organizational boundaries are able and willing to maintain networks for exchanging information and sharing knowledge. This research project takes up existing approaches in organizational theory and outlines a leadership style that is promising with regards to the digital transformation of public administration. In the near future, results are to be published in a German-speaking scientific journal and edited book, reviewing existent literature and drafting a conceptual framework.