”Very inspiring!” – Leadership programme addresses unique challenges in public sector

5 April 2022

Elisabeth Österman, a school principal in Stockholm, wanted to attend a further academic training programme adapted for the public sector. She was looking for a programme that provided perspectives on leadership and the opportunity to exchange knowledge and insights with leaders in other public sector organisations. As such, in the autumn of 2021, she started the course Leadership and strategic thinking at the University of Gothenburg, one of several courses that are part of the education programme Leadership in the public sector (LiOV).

“The lectures are of a high standard in terms of expertise, evidence and engagement. It is very interesting to meet lecturers with such broad experience who can easily connect the theoretical and the practical. The exchange with other participants is also very rewarding,” says Elisabeth Österman about the programme, which, for her, means frequent train journeys between Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Elisabeth Österman is the principal of a preschool-primary-middle (F-6) school in the city of Stockholm. She has previously been a leader at three schools and had another role as principal in another municipality. She has also attended the Swedish national principal training programme.

“Here, I get a broader perspective in several ways. For example, I can compare principals’ leadership with the leadership of experienced leaders in other areas, including municipal and regional management. It’s very interesting. The training programme combines long-term overall management and practical action based on relevant examples. I get both a deeper understanding and tools that I can apply in my everyday life,” she says and continues…

“I have also gained in-depth knowledge of financial management of public administration and its historical background. Since I am in a system that is controlled in this way, it strengthens me to understand both what the system looks like and why it is that way.”


Argumentation, support and recognition

A challenge that many of the course participants recognise is in leading professional employees who may sometimes feel a stronger affiliation with their profession, e.g. teacher, nurse or psychologist, than with the organisation they work for. Another is that, as a manager in the public sector, you lead operations with finite resources yet infinite needs – at the same time as it can be challenging to talk about financing issues.

“The programme has given me tools to make arguments in relation to levels of efficiency and financing. I also learn a lot from the discussions with leaders from other public enterprises who face the same challenges.”


Tools for qualitative reflection

“Through the course’s deep dives into the theories, I get thoughts and structures that I can make use of. A lot is about being taught and understanding theoretical concepts around management and leadership that enable me to articulate my reality. I’m getting better at reflecting upon my leadership. Qualitative reflection requires you to a step back from your own everyday life and see situations from new perspectives. The programme gives us good tools for that,” says Elisabeth Österman.

The course Management and strategic thinking is part of the training programme Leadership in the public sector (LiOV), which is offered by the University of Gothenburg through GU Executive Education. The programme consists of several modules (see below) that are delivered on a 25 % basis. Participants combine study and work and can take one or more of the courses.

“Of course, it is a challenge to fit everything in timewise, but I’m driven by gaining additional knowledge, which gives me energy. The traveling is quite tough, but it also means that I physically move from my daily life, which I think adds an extra dimension to the education. I develop as a leader and gain knowledge and skills that are directly applicable in my day-to-day work. It is very inspiring!”


Elisabeth Österman


Read more about Leadership in the public sector here (in Swedish)

Leadership in the public sector modules (2022–2023):

  • Management and strategic thinking (15 higher education credits)
  • Change leadership (15 higher education credits)
  • Conflict management for managers and leaders (7.5 higher education credits)
  • Innovation leadership (7.5 higher education credits)
  • Organisational structure for managers (7.5 higher education credits)
  • Master’s thesis (15/30 higher education credits)