Published : 2022-06-29

Digitalisation and e-leadership in local government before COVID-19: Results of an exploratory study

Section: Articles

Abstract

The digitalisation of the public sector was already an emerging trend prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools in municipal administrative settings was gaining traction in limited fields, with the digital preparedness of employees yet to be fully established. As already argued within academic debates, digitalisation leads to the emergence of e-leadership. As such, in order to evaluate the dynamics in operation, this study focuses on local municipalities in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Germany, analysing the pre-pandemic practices. Moreover, it examines the challenges to public servants brought about by the adoption of ICT tools. As a pilot study, proposing further avenues for future research to explore, it expands the theoretical understanding of how digitalisation fosters e-leadership in local administration. The qualitative analysis relies upon interviews with managers and employees within local municipalities. The results suggest that even in the pre-pandemic period, an overall positive attitude towards digitalisation and e-leadership had already been established. However, the findings demonstrate that there are emerging challenges stemming from the process. More often than not, they are associated with the need for suitable training, difficulties in establishing an appropriate work-life balance, and disparities between the traditional organisational culture and digitalisation.

Keywords

digitalisation ; e-leadership ; public sector ; local government ; municipality


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