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Top managerial role in transition – or not? Trajectories during 20 years in Swedish local government
Halmstad University, School of Business, Engineering and Science, The Rydberg Laboratory for Applied Sciences (RLAS). Halmstad University, School of Business, Engineering and Science, Centre for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Learning Research (CIEL).ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8823-4423
University of Borås, Borås, Sweden.
2018 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The top municipal managers – the CEOs – hold an important role in the Swedish municipalities. He or she is the highest non-politically appointed official, in charge of the administration. Often the position has ensured stability in municipalities with high turnover on politicians and changing political majority, and with the position also comes a comprehensive and professional bureaucracy. The municipal services are extensive in Sweden, and are characterized by high competence, independence from state intervention and a wide-ranging scope. Politics and management usually work close to each other. However, this makes the position of the municipal CEO both influential and difficult, as she or he moves in and between major political issues but always has to be perceived as apolitical and objective. The position is formally unregulated and is often described in terms of understanding and making sense about a golden interface. In this paper we analyze the past, present and the future of Swedish municipal administrative governance based on the perspective of the municipal CEO. We also discuss effects of the development of the role and its performance. We conclude by suggesting how the role - and thus also part of the municipal governance - could develop in the future.

Two theoretical frameworks form the basis of our studies. Institutional theory forms the basis for analyzing path dependencies and change. Theoretical concepts of leadership form the basis for studying the managerial role of the municipal CEO. The framework provides the starting point for our operationalization of questions to a questionnaire sent to all Swedish municipal CEOs every five years for a 20-year period (a total of five times starting in 1995). In addition to the survey data, we use longitudinally collected interview data as well as secondary sources.

Our investigations reveal that the municipal CEO holds his or her position in a shorter period (increased turnover) grows older and the proportion of women is increasing rapidly and steadily. The CEO puts less emphasis on economic crisis management, but puts more emphasis on ensuring compliance with rules, giving politicians advice and planning for regional development with other municipalities’ CEO. Comparing to other countries' corresponding positions, we notice that the Swedish municipal CEO has much in common with Northern Europe's local administrations, but not with Southern Europe's countries or Great Britain. The leadership style is more participatory than authoritative even if this changes slightly over the years. The CEOs describe their role as difficult, especially in relation to the political level. The changes in the role during the investigated 20 years suggest there are at least three trajectories to choose from in the future: 1) to become increasingly political (and perhaps even politically appointed), 2) to be clearly separated from the political level through increased formal regulation, or 3) to support continued informal interpreting of the mystic and undefined golden interface.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
National Category
Public Administration Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-38594OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hh-38594DiVA, id: diva2:1270631
Conference
XXII IRSPM Annual Conference 2018, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, 11-13 April, 2018
Available from: 2018-12-13 Created: 2018-12-13 Last updated: 2019-01-04Bibliographically approved

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Cregård, Anna

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
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Language
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  • en-US
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Output format
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  • asciidoc
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