Public Service, Leaders and Transformation in the Non-Western Context: The Case of Jamaica

  • Paulette Toppin

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In developing states, public service transformation is considered a critical contributor to economic prosperity and meeting the constantly changing needs of all citizens. Post-independent developing economies like Jamaica have undertaken a series of public administration strategies driven almost exclusively by Western philosophies such as New Public Management. This is especially the case for post-colonial developing states, of which Jamaica is one of many. With several of those strategies, the anticipated gains have not been fully realised and progress has been limited. There is limited evidence about why this is the case, especially from the unique vantage point of public administration actors.Through a qualitative case study, eliciting primary data from elite interviews with 18 senior leader stakeholders within public service transformation in Jamaica, this study found that several external and internal factors act as barriers to progress and effective senior leader practice. Elite senior stakeholders included public service internal stakeholders with direct political power (senior governmental ministers for example and those to whom they report) and external stakeholders (those with direct political influence like Permanent Secretaries as an example). Through the lens of constructivism and analysis of data using a thematic approach, the research reveals the imprint of post-colonial public administration based upon the Westminster model that put bureaucracy and administrative expediency at its heart. The imprint delivers structures that are dominant in rigidity, codified rules and regulations that cannotaddress fundamental problems because they ignore deep cultural country norms evolved over time through country history and because of its size as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS). These same factors also influence the internal environment generating competing expectations of the leader actions and behaviour. These alongside low levels of psychological safety and trust serve to stifle critical leader behaviour that contributes to organisational success; that of leaders as agents of innovation and change. These factors typically remain unrecognised within transformation efforts. These findings help us to understand that a deeply nuanced approach to public administration reform is required in developing economies. Such an approach should be explicitly cognisant of the whole context of the society in question including its history, cultural norms and traditions, and internal organisational climate. These aspects need to be critically prioritised because of the need for internal high-level trust to create the conditions for effective leader practice to take place and be maximised for successful contextually aligned transformation that meets the needs of all citizens.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorAnn-Marie Nienaber (Supervisor) & Charis Rice (Supervisor)


  • Public Service Transformation
  • Public Administration
  • Culture
  • Small Island Developing State
  • Organisational Climate
  • Sensemaking
  • Leader Practice
  • Psychological Climate

Cite this