Original Research - Special Collection: Leadership in Emerging Economies

Responsible leadership in the public sector: A sector-specific interpretation

Petronella Jonck
South African Journal of Business Management | Vol 55, No 1 | a4272 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajbm.v55i1.4272 | © 2024 Petronella Jonck | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 September 2023 | Published: 30 April 2024

About the author(s)

Petronella Jonck, Department of Global Innovative Forefront Talent (GIFT), Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University, Mafikeng, South Africa; and Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Purpose: Responsible leadership has gained significant attention in contemporary management scholarship. Despite significant advances made in the burgeoning corpus of knowledge, a paucity of studies focusses on developing economies with a dearth of studies underscoring specifically the public sector.

Design/methodology/approach: A qualitative research methodology was implemented and operationalised by means of a policy analysis. Ascribed to leadership activities within the public sector being linked to policy directives, a policy document analysis was deemed an appropriate approach. Content analysis was utilised as a data analytical method which consists of a systematic evaluation of the content of written or verbal communication for the purpose of identifying themes.

Findings/results: Findings are captured in a conceptual framework, which infers that leadership in the context of the public sector is consistent with the tenets of responsible leadership. Themes that emerged from the analysis include leadership antecedents, leadership roles, motivational drivers, and responsibility towards internal and external stakeholders. Leadership antecedents include psychological characteristics, aptitude and conative orientation. Normative, relational and operational roles were evidently stimulated by normative and intrapsychic motivation.

Practical implications: The contribution relates to how responsible leadership in terms of theoretical tenets and practical applicability might support policy makers and public sector leaders to improve the implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP) as a societal meta-framework for sustainable development in a multi-stakeholder context.

Originality/value: A dearth of research focuses on responsible leadership in the context of a developmental state especially theorising within the public sector indicative of the originality of the research.


responsible leadership; public service; policy analysis; leadership identity; accountability; reliable

JEL Codes

L38: Public Policy

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals


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