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An exploration of public sector leadership in the context of Bangladeshi public sector reforms : the dilemmas of public sector leadership

Masud, Mehedi


Mehedi Masud


Kevin Orr


The purpose of the research is to explore the significance and role of the Bangladeshi public sector leadership (PSL) in the context of public sector reforms (PSR). I examine how the adoption of the reforms depends on the interaction between the PSL of the home government and the donor agencies, resulting in reform challenges on the part of the home government. To do this, the research explores how bureaucratic behaviour responds to and matches donor agenda vis-à-vis their dual role of protecting the traditional socio-economic system, cultural and political norms, values and developing the institutional basis when dealing with reforms. Thus, the research emphasises the need for exploring the elite actors’ beliefs about their governmental traditions as they shape PSR.

Taking an interpretive approach, this thesis presents empirical insights in three important areas of public sector management, namely, perceptions and lived experiences of PSL; bureaucratic response to PSR; and traditions in governance and governance intervention by donors. Its contribution is to illuminate the key aspects of PSL roles/practice within the Bangladeshi PSR.

Findings offer an understanding of how public sector leaders construe and respond to reform initiatives. Analysis of the PSL role shows that reform is fundamentally a political and contested process. The current study presents an empirical analysis of the elite actors’ webs of belief about the PSR in the context of normative roots of the Bangladeshi governance traditions and culture vis-à-vis the motives of the aid regimes.

Part of the originality of this research is its attempt to conceptualise governance traditions as adaptable sets of beliefs that stresses the role of agency in PSR in the Bangladeshi context. I also claim my research to be worthwhile as I situate the Bangladeshi governance traditions within a context that goes beyond the typology of traditions advanced by Painter and Peters (2010). Moreover, this research argues for the performative accounts of the governance traditions.

The key argument in this thesis is that public sector leaders’ response towards the public sector reforms is shaped by the wider web of beliefs embedded in a historically inherited tradition and that dilemmas arise when the public sector leaders face new situations uncommon and unfamiliar to them in terms of atypical reform agenda prescribed by international donors. Dilemmas also arise because of the incongruity between the traditional socio-economic, cultural values and donor-prescribed reform initiatives. This study suggests that dilemmas and conflicts – two important constructs illuminating cultures and traditions in public sector management – have an explanatory link to the bureaucratic response towards reforms. Thus, change is the outcome of the dilemma, if not the solution (Bevir & Rhodes, 2010).

Looking from an interpretive lens, I contend that the Bangladeshi governance tradition is postcolonial, combining multiple features directly traceable to colonial institutions and ancient Samaj (village life/society) with post-independence adaptations and innovations based on administrative reform prescriptions by donor agencies, the latter essentially appearing as new ‘layers’ on the original bedrock. Therefore, it can be called a hybrid tradition.


Masud, M. (2013). An exploration of public sector leadership in the context of Bangladeshi public sector reforms : the dilemmas of public sector leadership. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 29, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Business
Public URL
Additional Information Business School, The University of Hull
Award Date Nov 1, 2013


Thesis (2.8 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2013 Masud, Mehedi. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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