Inter-sector senior leader transitions : experience and outcomes

Thompson, Robert M. & Flynn, Christine (2014) Inter-sector senior leader transitions : experience and outcomes. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 27(1), pp. 85-93.

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The purpose of this article is to explore the experience of senior leaders who move into the public sector from other sectors of the economy, a process we refer to as inter-sector senior leader transitions. This is a little researched area of public sector leadership yet has significant implications for fundamental public sector reform.


We employed an interview design to elicit senior leaders' stories of their transition into the public sector.


The data suggest that successful senior leader transitions are more likely when a set of conditions is met;

(1) the leader transitions into CEO role, rather than levels below CEO, (2) Ministers provide inter-sector transition support, (3) senior leaders develop responses to stress, (4) senior leaders reject high formalization, (5) their change processes focus on building capacity, and (6) senior leaders confront dysfunctional organizational relationships directly.

Research limitations/implications

The research relies on a relatively small sample. However, access to senior managers at this level can be difficult. Nevertheless, those senior managers who participated were very willing to share their stories.

Practical implications

If public sector organizations are to realize the value of successful leaders from other sectors, they need to invest in structured processes that facilitate the transition. A laissez-faire approach is not viable given the cost of such transitions.


The paper focuses on a little researched area of leadership experience which has significant implications for the development and change of the public sector.

Impact and interest:

1 citations in Scopus
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ID Code: 67572
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Senior Leaders, Transitions, Public Sector
DOI: 10.1108/IJPSM-03-2012-0034
ISSN: 0951-3558
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Organisational Behaviour (150311)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Management
Deposited On: 20 Feb 2014 23:41
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2014 01:30

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