The representation of organizational agency in UK policy discourse on public service modernization is analysed in order to disclose the legitimation of elite organizational centres and the structuring of organizational peripheries and their potential for resistance. Three discourses are identified and explored: the residual, but still potent, discourse of professionalism; the dominant discourse of managerialism; and the emergent discourse of leaderism. The emergent discourse of leaderism is shown to be linked to an imaginary of neo-bureaucratic organizing, which represents an evolution of New Public Management. As such, the analysis of leaderism, a new form of privileged agency, contributes an insight into the dynamics of public service modernization. This is developed through exploring leaderism’s tension between its strong affinity with unitarist managerialism and its weaker linkages to quasi-pluralist stakeholder networks which create potentialities for new forms of active resistance.