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Public Administration Theories and Approaches Essay

Behavioral Skills

Nowadays, public service is exposed to continuous reforms and structural transformations which emphasize the importance of guesswork, evaluation of contexts, and personal experience. To keep pace with these changes, a public administrator should develop such skills as questioning, observation, networking, and risk-taking.

Questioning and inquiring are the basic skills required for the development of an innovative approach to professional practice (Dyer, Gregersen, & Christensen, 2011). Questioning is aimed to challenge the existing state of affairs, create new possibilities, and identify the directions to follow.

The skills of observation are needed to achieve a better understanding of what society actually needs at the current stage of development. Through observation of social interests, new political ideas, and tendencies, the public administrator may gain new insights and generate innovative ideas for future development.

Networking skills are of paramount importance in public administration. Social networks are the major sources of support. Moreover, through social networking, it is possible to collaborate with diverse individuals and organizations, create alliances and, in this way, contribute to the development of forward-looking projects and cultivation of new concepts.

Experimenting is the initiator of substantial changes and improvements. Engagement in new experiences and intellectual explorations facilitates self-education and flexibility (Dyer et al., 2011). Experimenting guarantees the sustainability of professional efficiency in the constantly changing social and political environments.

Defining Public Administration

It is possible to define public administration as “government inaction” or “implementation of public policies” (Shafritz, Russell, & Borick, 2008, p. 6). However, despite the apparent simplicity of the term, it has multiple dimensions: political, legal, managerial, and occupational.

From the political point of view, public administration can be regarded as the complex of activities and practices exercised by the governmental authorities. Public administration depends on the political environment, and the political implications of public service distinguish it from activities in the private sector (Shafritz et al., 2008). At the political level of performance, public administration implements the public interests through policymaking, negotiations, and collaborations with other social for-profit and non-profit organizations and networks.

Law may be considered the foundation and the major cohesive element of public administration. Shafritz et al. (2008) regard public administration as “the execution of public law” (p. 12). Policymaking and other related activities always should be enabled and approved by the relevant legislation. In this way, public administration is bound to the administrative law that provides the legal grounds for the execution of authorities (Shafritz et al., 2008).

The managerial aspect is inherent with public administration as well. Since executive functions are important in public administration, the skills of management become essential to the successful realization of strategies and achievement of formulated objectives. Management in public administration is both goal-oriented and people-oriented, and, it is possible to say, that the efficient managerial performance largely defines the effectiveness of multiple working processes’ outcomes, coordination of personnel, communication with social networks and stakeholders.

The occupational aspect of public administration is versatile and “it ranges from brain surgery to street sweeping” (Shafritz et al., 2008, p. 20). The public sector offers a great variety of positions in distinct domains: cultural, legal, academic, political, social, and scientific. Any profession can be related to public administration in case it is associated with the provision of public services and networking.

Organizational Motivation

The Hawthorne Experiments

According to the Hawthorne Experiments, the employees’ productivity depends on both objective external conditions and subjective internal attitudes towards them (Miner, 2005). For example, when an employee believes that the working condition is changing for better, he/she demonstrates the improvement of productivity indicators. In this way, the subjective perceptions may be regarded as a decisive factor affecting job satisfaction and working performance. Thus, managers should primarily focus on people and their needs rather than merely technical factors of financial and productive growth.

The Needs Hierarchy (Maslow)

Maslow considers that human behaviour is defined by the personal priorities influencing the fulfilment of needs. There are several types of needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization (Sengupta, 2011). Every person fulfils the needs starting from the initial physical ones and then climbs up the hierarchy. According to Maslow, the higher needs in the hierarchy acquire significance merely over the years of individual development and obtain the dominant position in the adults’ psychology (Sengupta, 2011). Therefore, the favourable working environment should provide opportunities for the individual needs to be fulfilled. Otherwise, the employees will lack motivation, and their job satisfaction will be reduced.

The Hygiene Theory

Herzberg’s Motivation Theory is focused on two main factors influencing individual’s performance: hygiene factors (working conditions, the level of supervision, organizational policies, etc.) and motivational factors (success, responsibility, career, etc.) (Bassett-Jones & Lloyd, 2005). The hygienic factors define the level of work satisfaction in the context of the surrounding conditions. And the second group of factors serves as stimuli for work’s effectiveness and productivity increase.

Theory X and Theory Y

According to Theory X, people naturally attempt to avoid hard work and responsibilities, and they seek safety and security (Miner, 2005). Based on this, a manager will always structure the functions of his/her subordinates and will centralize the responsibilities to facilitate control over employee performance. At the same time, Theory Y suggests that labour is a natural process, and in case employees are properly motivated for the achievement of organizational goals, they self-organize and independently regulate own work (Miner, 2005). In this way, management needs to focus on the development of organizational culture stimulating the fulfilment of needs for employees’ self-realization.


Leadership style is an essential managerial characteristic. According to Lewin’s model, there are three types of leadership: authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire (Malakyan, 2013).

Authoritarian leadership is characterized by rigidity, strict control, and discipline – the main focus is made on results. Authoritative leaders tend to ignore the social and psychological needs of their subordinates and, thus, contribute to the decrease in job satisfaction. By contrast, laissez-faire leadership is characterized by low exactingness, connivance, lack of discipline and rigour. It is associated with a share of managerial passivity and loss of control over subordinates by endowing them with complete freedom of action. Democratic leadership may be considered the golden mean between the mentioned leadership styles as it is based on collegiality, trust, communication, creativity, self-discipline, and stimulation. It is not focused solely on the results but recognizes the significance of the methods used to achieve them.

Leadership Approaches

There are many approaches to leadership. For example, according to contingency model, leadership style may be either task-oriented or employee-oriented, and it always should adapt to the situation that can be identified according to three criteria: pattern of leader-subordinate relations, task’s structure, and volume and form of leader’s power (Miner, 2005).

Transactional and transformational leadership principles can be equally efficient although they suggest different approaches to management. Transactional leader operates within the framework of the organizational culture that already exists while transformational leader changes the organizational culture (Miner, 2005).

The transactional approach is based on the concept of reciprocity. The leader recognizes the connection between employees’ efforts and rewards, and he/she appeals to economic rationality. Transactional leadership uses remuneration, promotion, punishment, and sanctions as the major forms of control. At the same time, transformational leadership is based on an understanding of human psychology. The transformational leader motivates for self-development and creates opportunities for self-realization.


Bassett-Jones, N., & Lloyd, G. (2005). Does Herzberg’s motivation theory have staying power? The Journal of Management Development, 24(10), 929–943.

Dyer, J., Gregersen, H. B., & Christensen, C. M. (2011). The innovator’s DNA: Mastering the five skills of disruptive innovators. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

Malakyan, P. G. (2013). Anthropology of leadership: An Armenian perspective. Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics, 10(3), 107-126. Web.

Miner, J. B. (2005). Organizational behaviour 1. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.

Sengupta, S. S. (2011). Growth in human motivation: Beyond Maslow. Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, 47(1), 102-116.

Shafritz, J. M., Russell, E. W., & Borick, C. (2008). Introducing public administration. New York: Longman.

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