Lika Jakobsen

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Gabris, Gerald T.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


City managers--United States--Psychology; City managers--Denmark--Psychology


Most contemporary approaches to municipal management view the city manager as an administrator of policy and public servant to elected officials. This dissertation is based on a different premise. It focuses instead on city manager leadership and attempts to understand how city managers play the dual roles of being both managers and leaders and how they fulfill competing demands for maintaining productive stability and initiating adaptive change. The dissertation relies on a contingency leadership framework based on three different theoretical approaches to leadership: (a) the distinction between concern for people and concern for production, (b) transformational leadership approaches, and (c) contingency theory. The dissertation presents unique empirical research that is based on a comparative study of Danish and American city managers seeking to identify cross-cultural municipal commonalities as opposed to culture-specific conditions. Moreover, to achieve a 360-degree perspective of city manager leadership and municipal organizations, it collected data not only from city managers but also from 335 elected officials and department heads in 16 Danish and 22 American municipalities. The empirical findings show that, contrary to expectations, city managers do not adapt their leadership strategies to environmental conditions. Instead, city managers seem to be constrained by turbulence in the organizational environment when exercising leadership. Conflictual relationships between council members, mistrust between the council and staff, as well as poor functional unit cooperation and squabbles between departments reduce a manager's organizational room for exercising leadership. The findings also show that the most effective managers are those employing a high extent of relations-oriented and change-oriented leadership strategies. They are proactive, innovative, and creative leaders who focus on adaptation and change, and they motivate and inspire people around them to overcome the hardships of change. In addition, these managers are concerned with positive working relationships and try to facilitate interaction between the different members of the organization.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [327]-340)


xix, 425 pages




Northern Illinois University

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