Public servants and corporate governance failures: developing for the future by learning from the past

John Connolly, Robert Pyper

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter considers the challenges facing public servants when dealing with the complexities of corporate governance, particularly in relation to corporate failure. The chapter argues that the public servant of the future needs to be equipped with skills appropriate for meeting the challenge of navigating and managing the complexities of corporate failure, in a context where these place severe stresses upon relationships between public bureaucracies, private and third sector bodies, functioning across and within macro, meso and micro levels of governance. The chapter addresses the key questions about the ways in which corporate failures challenge the role of modern public servants in corporate governance, and the lessons that can be drawn from cases from the recent past. A range of illustrative examples from different levels within governance systems are deployed in order to examine this issue. These are: the Greek economic crisis, the FIFA fiasco, the collapse of the KidsCo charity, Oxfam and Save the Children scandals, and the Grenfell Tower fire. The role of the public servant in such circumstances is not just about partnering with stakeholders to minimize failure (through standard-setting, for example) but also to demonstrate leadership by bringing threats under control in a “crisis management” sense, co-producing lesson learning processes from failures, and strengthening lines of accountability.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of the Public Servant
EditorsHelen Sullivan, Helen Dickinson
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9783030299798
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • corporate governance
  • Failure
  • Learning
  • Public servant


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