An Introduction to Public Leadership

What is distinctive about leadership in the public sphere? Find out more about what it takes to lead public service organizations.

An Introduction to Public Leadership

  • Duration 3 weeks
  • Weekly study 3 hours
  • Certificate Available

Why join the course?

Leadership has been studied for centuries, although its examination in modern times has largely focused on the work of senior executives in private sector, profit-making organizations.

In this free online course, you will learn more about leadership in the context of public service provision, by public sector organizations, community and voluntary groups, and political bodies.

Find out what makes leadership in public service distinctive

You will explore the distinctive features of leadership in public service, including its increasing focus on the generation of public value and the negotiation of different forms of public interest. You will learn some of the key skills of public leadership such as political astuteness, working in collaboration and conflict handling.

Throughout, you will look at different types of public leadership, exploring the different roles of elected politicians, public servants and community activists, and how each can contribute (or detract from) the public good. You will consider different levels and contributions of leadership – from frontline police officers or social workers through to prime ministers.

Finally, you will have the opportunity to examine, through a series of interviews with key stakeholders, how awareness of these key facets of public leadership is helping to change the face of policing in Britain today.

Learn with experts in public leadership from The Open University

The course will be led by the Department of Public Leadership and Social Enterprise at The Open University’s Faculty of Business and Law, which has an international reputation for its research and teaching expertise in public leadership. The course has been developed in collaboration with The Open University Policing Consortium, a growing collaboration between 15 policing organizations and The Open University.

What topics will you cover?

  • Leadership and why it is considered so important in public services
  • ‘The public sphere’ and how leadership contributes to its shaping
  • Perspectives and approaches to public leadership
  • The skills of effective leadership in the public sphere
  • Public value and the role of leaders in its creation
  • Leading change and innovation in public services
  • Leading public service teams
  • Leading in collaborative and conflict situations in the public sphere

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Identify and understanding of leadership and its importance in public services
  • Demonstrate gained knowledge of the public sphere’ and how leadership contributes to its shaping
  • Explore perspectives and approaches to public leadership
  • Explain public value and the role of leaders in its creation

Who is the course for?

This course is intended for those with an interest in leadership in: public sector organizations; community groups and non-profit organizations involved in public service planning and delivery; and political bodies from local and national government to campaign groups.

Who will you learn with?

Mike Lucas

Mike Lucas

Senior Lecturer in the Open University Business School's Dept of Public Leadership and Social Enterprise (PuLSE), and Associate Director (Learning) at the Centre for Policing Research and Learning,

Who developed the course?

The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

  • Established1969
  • LocationMilton Keynes, UK
  • World rankingTop 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

Endorsed by


Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate

You can buy a Statement of Participation for this course — a personalised certificate in both digital and printed formats, to celebrate taking part.