Breaking the Vicious Circle of Escalating Control: Connecting Politicians and Public Employees through Stewardship

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Politicians applying general rules as a reaction to local failures has contributed to mushrooming control in the public sector, which has in turn spurred higher transactional costs and motivation crowding among public employees. Drawing on a qualitative case study in a Danish municipality, this article explores the prospects and challenges for politicians of breaking the vicious circle of escalating control by adopting stewardship ideals into their leadership of the public employees. The results show that stewardship offers new opportunities for politicians, enabling better diagnosis of control problems, more robust control solutions, as well as a pronounced mobilization of employee support for those solutions. However, political competition, political discontinuity after elections, scandals in the press, resistance in the administration, and more diffuse decision-making processes pose potential challenges for politicians striving to tackle the problem of escalating control through stewardship.
Original languageEnglish
Article number63
JournalAdministrative Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Research council of Norway (VAM Programme, project number 302345).


  • Control
  • Stewardship
  • politicians
  • trust
  • trust reform

Cite this