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Public Leadership Across Borders


Admission requirements

Elective for students of the master Public Administration.


Do public leaders in the Netherlands and Germany behave differently than their counterparts in Singapore, India, or China? And if so, why is that the case? And what do they do exactly to solve problems, and perform effectively? In this elective, we will contrast and compare public sector leadership practices in various jurisdictions, and examine how cultural, institutional, organizational, and legal contexts constrain as well as enable leaders of public agencies to organize, reform, perform and innovate.

Indeed, although global challenges and trends (digitization, individualization, ageing, and political populism) may be fairly universal, public leaders and the agencies they lead find different solutions depending on the context of their operating environment. For instance, if they succeed in leveraging the strengths, expertise, and added (financial) value offered by stakeholders and technological tools, while overcoming various collaborative challenges, they are able to produce more ‘public value’ at less cost. However, in more pluralist, democratic societies, collaborating with stakeholders and citizens may be supported and even expected, while such collaborative efforts may be frowned upon in more authoritarian countries, or at least take place in a different way.

This forward-looking course examines and compares strategies and action perspectives used by public leaders to turn 21st century challenges into opportunities. It does so from the perspective that technological, demographic, and societal trends offer many challenges but at the same time unlimited opportunities for innovative, effective, and citizen-centric service delivery.
Case studies and class discussions ensure continuous linkage between recent research evidence and the tough everyday life of leaders aspiring to create public value. Most importantly, your own experiences and examples will ensure general examples and evidence will feed back into your own professional world, and vice versa.

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Understand how and why the effectiveness important core concepts and tools of public leadership and management is affected by cultural, political, and geographical context;

  • Analyze and understand real-life public leadership challenges and practices in different regions and countries, and the adaptability and transferability of key 21st century public leadership skills;

  • Make effective and realistic recommendations on how to improve public leadership challenges within their own context, and in cross-national and supra-national settings;

  • Showcase improved writing, collaborating, presenting, and argumentation skills.


On the right side of programme front page of the e-Prospectus you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

The main structure of this course consists of 7 classroom sessions of around 2 hours each: +/- 14 hours & 126 hours of self study. The total course load will be 140 hours.

Assessment method

The grading of this course is based on two assignments:
1. Four individual 1-page statements submitted for session 2, 3, 5 and 6 on Friday before class at 23.59 latest, as preparation for class discussions.
Your statements, and the responses and questions they include, will serve two purposes: they will prepare you effectively for the session at hand, and aid the instructor in tailoring the session according to your interests, needs, and demands. In total, the position statements make up 80% of the final grade;

  1. Active participation in class discussions and break-out group case discussions; making up 20% of the final grade

To complete your requirements for the final grade, please take note of the following:

  1. Both the individual position statements and class participation should be passed (grade of 5.5 or higher; equivalent of 44 marks for all four position statements and 11 marks for participation) in order to pass the course.
  2. You can only pass an assignment if you complete and submit the assignment on time. Deadlines for the assignments will be published on Brightspace.
  3. For failed position statements, a retake is possible.

Partial grades are only valid in the current academic year; partial grades will not remain valid after the exam and the resit of the course.

Reading list

Van der Wal, Z. (2017). The 21st Century Public Manager. London: Bloomsbury.

Additional readings and cases will be made available through Brightspace prior to the start of the course.


Register yourself via MyStudymap for each course, workgroup and exam (not all courses have workgroups and/or exams). Do so on time, before the start of the course; some courses and workgroups have limited spaces. You can view your personal schedule in MyTimetable after logging in.

Registration for this course is possible from Wednesday 13 December 13.00h

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in MyStudymap you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.

More information on registration via MyStudymap can be found on this page.

Please note: guest-/contract-/exchange students do not register via MyStudymap but via uSis.


Prof.dr. Z. van der Wal


You will be assessed in terms of your contribution to class discussions on the cases and required readings, and how well you’ve prepared. You must fully participate in class discussions. Make sure you have thought about your ideas carefully. And always ask yourself: “How can I contribute constructively and meaningfully to our class discussion on this topic?” rather than “How can I just get my views across as assertively as possible?”