Street-level Leadership: Re-conceptualizing the Role of the Manager

Anne Mette Møller, Caroline Howard Grøn

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Street-level workers are notoriously difficult to manage. Over the years, scholars have highlighted the importance of social dynamics and informal and collective leadership in street-level contexts. Yet, the question of how formal managers can support street-level workers’ performance and well-being remains underexplored. Building on insights from the street-level and generic leadership literatures, the authors seek to delineate a role for formal managers that takes seriously the particularities of the street-level context. The authors develop a concept of street-level leadership that is underpinned by a relational approach and focused on activating street-level workers’ professional knowledge and building supportive communities, with the purpose of supporting professional uses of discretion, conscientious prioritizations, and the ability to handle moral dilemmas and emotional strain. Empirical examples illustrate street-level leadership in practice. Future research should explore the proposed mechanisms and effects of street-level leadership, including important HRM outcomes such as job satisfaction, retention, and burnout.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of Public Personnel Administration
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 02 March 2023.


  • Frontline workers
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Street-level bureaucracy
  • Discretion
  • Professionals

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