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Leadership Counts

Leadership Counts

Lessons for Public Managers from the Massachusetts Welfare, Training, and Employment Program

Robert Behn

ISBN 9780674518537

Publication date: 08/19/1998

How can public officials move large government agencies to produce significant results? In Leadership Counts, Robert Behn explains exactly what managers in the inherently political environment of government need to do to obtain such performance.

In 1983 the leadership of the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare—Charles M. Atkins, Thomas P. Glynn, Barbara Burke-Tatum, and Jolie Bain Pillsbury—set out to educate and train welfare recipients, place them in good jobs, and move them from dependency to self-sufficiency. From these efforts to accomplish a specific and important public purpose, Behn extracts the fundamental ingredients of successful public leadership.

Behn’s analysis spans the spectrum of managerial tasks—from the almost spiritual responsibility to create and communicate a public mission to the seemingly mundane chore of motivating specific individuals to accomplish specific tasks. He describes how to manage for performance, examines how effective leaders can use external success to build internal morale, and analyzes the dilemmas of evaluating ongoing and evolving public policies. He explains in detail how accomplishing specific purposes requires “management by groping along.” And he analyzes three different metastrategies for government executives—strategies that emphasize policy, administration, or leadership.

Leadership Counts is more than an intriguing success story. It offers specific lessons that the nominal head of any government agency can employ to become the organization’s true leader. This insightful book will be of interest not only to students and teachers of public management but to leaders at all levels of government—from the principal of a school to the secretary of defense.


  • Leadership Counts is vintage Behn. It combines a deep understanding of public management with a thoroughly engaging, colorful, and memorable writing style.

    —Alan Altshuler, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Book Details

  • 263 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press