Street-Level Leadership

cover art
240 pp., 6 x 9
ISBN: 9780878407057 (0878407057)

October 1998
LC: 98-4477



Street-Level Leadership
Discretion and Legitimacy in Front-Line Public Service
Janet Coble Vinzant and Lane Crothers
Examining public service from the perspective of the worker, this book provides a new framework for understanding the roles and responsibilities of front-line public servants and assessing the appropriateness of their actions.

Public employees who work at street level face some of the most intractable, pervasive, and complex problems in contemporary society. Drawing on more than 1500 hours of observation of police officers and social service workers in four states, this book explores the types of situations they confront, the factors they consider, and the hard choices they make. Presenting numerous cases of how these individuals acted in various situations, the authors show how public servants translate the expectations of administrators and others into legitimate street-level action.

Vinzant and Crothers propose the concept of leadership as a positive and realistic framework for understanding what these public servants do and how they can successfully meet the daily challenges of their very difficult and complex jobs. They show how changing the theory and language we use to describe street-level work can encourage decisions that are responsive both to the needs of the clients being served and to the broader community's need for accountability. They also examine how street-level leadership can change the way agencies recruit, train, and manage these employees and how society defines their role in governance.

This book offers valuable insights for those working in or studying public administration, policy analysis, criminal justice, and social work.
Janet Coble Vinzant is a professor in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University.

Lane Crothers is an associate professor of political science at Illinois State University.
"This work is a diligent one resulting in the fashioning of a tool serving as an ideal yardstick to measure a public servant's distance to perfections."—Public Administration Review