Case study of public leadership on handling of the coronavirus pandemic

How do I develop my assignment case study?

During the module, you will develop a case study for analysis in your end of module assignment. Working to develop your own case study is an exciting opportunity to bring your passions and interests to the fore and allow them to flourish. Developing a case study is also a useful way for you to connect the theory and practice, and advance your analytical skills. Engaging with a particular public management concern and becoming an independent researcher is also useful grounding for preparing your dissertation.

What is a case study?

In social sciences, a case study is a research method involving an in-depth and detailed examination of a particular example or instance. For example, of a public leader’s role in addressing a crisis or a public service organisation’s approach to a social or policy concern.

A case study is not just isolated description, but is integrated into existing knowledge about the topic. The case study for example may:

  • Exemplify a theory by showing how it explains the case under investigation
  • Expand on the theory by uncovering new concepts and ideas that need to be incorporated
  • Challenge a theory by exploring a case that doesn’t fit with established assumptions.

What sources should I use in developing the case study?

In research, case studies are often developed from primary research, ie. research you undertake yourself, for example through conducting a series of interviews, or observing meetings. For your assignment in this module, you will instead draw on secondary research, ie. research undertaken by others, for example as published in policy reports, academic articles or the media. As such it is important that you select a case that is well-documented, so that you can draw on varied sources, and where there are different perspectives presented.

How do I select a case study?

In selecting the case study, you need to ensure that you read the assignment brief carefully:

Using your case study and the annotated bibliography, critically reflect on the role of public leadership in addressing a public management challenge.

Drawing on the leadership theories discussed in this module, you should:

– identify the leadership approach(es) being employed, and by who;

– discuss the challenges faced, and how these were addressed;

– reflect critically on the impact of the leadership shown.

You need to ensure that your case study clearly demonstrates these two elements, and ensure that you can clearly demonstrate the links between practice and theory.

Linking theory and practice

The key to the assignment is to link theory and practice, and in doing so show your analysis.

For example, showing how the case exemplifies, expands or challenges the theories we have explored in the module.

But also, how the theories give you analytical insights into the case, that allow you to understand the case, bring different perspectives to bear, and raise questions about the nature of the leadership.

What is a good case study?

In selecting the case think about the opportunity it offers you to demonstrate critical thinking.  A good case study should have the potential to:

  • Provide new or unexpected insights into the subject
  • Challenge or complicate existing assumptions or theories
  • Propose practice courses of action to resolve a problem
  • Open up new directions for research or practice

You should also select a case that interests you: this could be a particular leader, organisation, or public management issue that you are interested in or provoked by; or one that you have personal or professional experience of, or aspire to work within/ on. Your example could be local, national or international. You could draw on an example from the UK, your home country or anywhere else.

Note, a good case study is not necessarily a successful example of leadership.

How do I analyse the sources?

In developing your case study, it is important that you ask questions about the different sources you are using. Some useful questions to consider when working with a source include:

  • WHO? Who created this document? Whom, if anyone, is quoted in it? Who is the intended audience?
  • WHEN and WHERE? When and where was the document originally created? What, if anything, do you know about the circumstances under which it was created?
  • WHAT? In your own words, what does this document say? What do you think are the most important points in it? What did you learn from it?
  • HOW? How does the creator of this document get his or her message or ideas across? How would you describe the language and tone of the document?
  • WHY? Why do you think the document was originally created? Why do you think it may be considered important?

Support in developing your case studies

Time is allocated each week for developing your case study, and your annotated bibliography, ensure that you use this opportunity, and do not leave it until just before the assignment is due.

In Week 6 and Week 12 of the module, we will have an opportunity for you to share the development of your case study with your tutors:

  • In Week 6, you can submit an example annotation from your bibliography, and a short 100-word summary of your case study with five supporting reference. You will receive feedback on this from your tutors.
  • In Week 12, you can submit an outline of your assignment for feedback. An example of an assignment structure, along with other tips and guidance will be provided on Canvas in this week.

Your tutors are also on hand to guide you and give you advice, you can contact them by email or their office hours.

Case study examples

Keeping informed of topical issues by regularly engaging with quality and balanced media will be helpful in selecting a case study.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Public leadership of the pandemic

Given the significance of this issue, and how it is affecting the lives of everyone globally, makes this an obvious choice; but there are different ways to approach this idea, for example:

  • Institutional leadership: how have organisations such as the World Health Organisation, or the National Health Service here in the UK led the response? How have local community organisations demonstrated leadership?
  • Individual political leaders: there has been a lot of comment on how individual leaders have responded to the pandemic, from Donald Trump in the US to Xi Jinping in China; you could even look to compare two contrasting examples of public leadership; for instance, in the UK, there have been comparisons drawn between Boris Johnson and Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon, and more recently Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham;
  • Professional leadership: the pandemic has raised an interesting perspective on the role of expertise in leadership, with scientists and medical professionals coming more to the fore as public leaders;
  • Dynamics of leadership: another issue that has attracted attention has been the gendered dynamics of leadership, for example, how the crisis has exposed ‘strongman’ leadership, and brought the value of more empathetic and relational leadership to the fore. Female leaders and their handling of the pandemic, such as Germany’s Angela Merkel or New Zealand’s Jacinta Ardern.
  • Public leadership on the defining issues of our time

Key social issues such as, institutional and systemic racism and climate change have also dominated in recent months, and your assignment could focus on these, for example: 

  • Black Lives Matter: this global movement brings an interesting perspective to leadership, adopting a more collective and distributed approach, in contrast to leadership approaches in earlier civil rights movements.
  • Extinction Rebellion: this movement has adopted a co-leadership approach, sharing responsibilities between a small cadre of leaders
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