Special Issue Call for Papers: Public Leadership in Times of Crisis—Viewpoints on Administrative Leadership in Response to COVID-19

Call for papers for: International Journal of Public Leadership

Issue 2, April 2021: Public Leadership in Times of Crisis—Viewpoints on Administrative Leadership in Response to COVID-19

Guest Editors: Frank Ohemeng (Concordia University, Canada [email protected]) and Tim A. Mau (University of Guelph, Canada [email protected])

This issue is looking for observational studies and research as governments around the world respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Viewpoint articles between 2,000 and 4,000 words, grounded in the opinions and observations of the author(s), will enable us to expedite the publication of salient and insightful commentary from both scholars and practitioners regarding the various global manifestations of public sector leadership in the face of COVID-19.

In this crisis situation, leadership in varied forms and addressing myriad questions is critical (Boin et al., 2018; Hartley, 2018). The presence—or glaring absence—of strong political leadership at all levels of government is central in a crisis (Kettl, 2006), with designing resilience in preparation an international concern (Comfort et al., 2010). Elected officials—city mayors, state governors, provincial premiers, presidents and prime ministers—hold their daily press conferences to provide updates to the public on efforts to contain the spread of the virus and to address the social and financial ramifications of this health crisis.

Other forms of administrative and appointed leadership, however, have been equally prominent (Sharfstein, 2018). Specifically, the public sees and hears from their local, regional and national chief medical officers of health alongside their political leaders; these individuals have assumed significant decision-making power. Moreover, there are countless examples of less high profile forms of administrative leadership that are occurring as various front line public servants or street-level bureaucrats—especially health care workers and EMT personnel, social workers, police officers, fire fighters and teachers—and senior public servants provide much needed services (often at significant risk to their own health) and navigate the country through the pandemic.

For this first special issue of the International Journal of Public Leadership (https://www.emerald.com/insight/publication/issn/2056-4929) we are interested in capturing a truly global perspective (Comfort et al., 2010) with contributions from a wide range of nations, on observations and research of political, administrative or bureaucratic leadership (Neustadt and May, 1986) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Submissions can be country-specific, as well as comparative, examining examples of public sector leadership in two or more jurisdictions. Manuscripts could address any of the following as well as other related questions:

  1. Has the interface between political and administrative leaders changed as a result of the pandemic? Does the power shift from the politicians to various administrative leaders with an increased emphasis on evidence-based decision-making?
  2. Has the crisis resulted in more examples of innovative leadership by public servants at all levels?
  3. How are frontline public servants or street-level bureaucrats and their superiors providing leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  4. How do supervisors, managers and directors provide leadership to their staff members who are largely working remotely?
  5. Are charismatic administrative leaders more effective at motivating and inspiring public sector employees, especially when they may be feeling particularly stressed about their own health and well-being as well as the safety of their immediate and extended families?
  6. Are there best practices of leadership development in crisis management that can be applied in every situation?
  7. How can administrative and political leaders collaboratively work together to deal with future crises?
  8. How can administrative leaders use foresight to conceptualise and understand future crisis events?
  9. What lessons can be learned from the current crisis and how can political and administrative leaders learn and prepare for future crises?

Contributions from practitioners, who have first-hand experience in providing or witnessing extraordinary administrative leadership, are particularly welcome. These observations will ideally provide insight that will inform practice and identify future research trajectories.

Papers for this first special issue should be submitted for consideration by September 1, 2020. We expect to have the papers reviewed within a month and the revised papers would be due by December 1, 2020 with final acceptance of papers by February 1, 2021.


Boin, Arjen, Paul ’t Hart, Eric Stern and Bengt Sundelius (2017). The Politics of Crisis Management: Public Leadership Under Pressure. Cambridge University Press.

Comfort, Louise, Arjen Boin, and Chris Demchak (2010). Designing Resilience: Preparing for Extreme Events. University of Pittsburgh Press.

Hartley, Jean (2018). “Ten propositions about public leadership,” International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 14 Issue: 4, pp.202-217, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPL-09-2018-0048.

Kettl, Donald F. (2006) “Is the Worst Yet to Come?” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. March. pp. 273- 287.

Neustadt, Richard and Ernest May (1986). Thinking in Time: The Uses of History of Decision-Makers. Harvard University Press.

Sharfstein, Joshua (2018). The Public Health Survival Guide: Leadership and Management in Trying Times. Oxford University Press.