As the APS Review becomes more mature and the panel builds a perspective on what the future of the public sector needs to look like in 2030, we’re encouraged by many commentators and senior public servants to act now.
Chair of the APS Review Panel David Thodey recently called for APS to become a learning organisation. At the IPAA ACT Branch annual conference, he focused on the need for leaders who can inspire trust, have pride in achieving excellence, a strong sense of purpose and a clear value proposition all within a dynamic adaptable environment.
Although the panel reserves the right to change the framework, we can see alignment between the review and the APSC. This is demonstrated by the recent pilot to assess senior (EL2 & above) APS leadership capabilities, focussing on visionary, influential, collaborative, enabling, entrepreneurial and delivery capabilities.
Moving forward, we must explore the “how” of leadership development in this new world of Australian public service work, whilst encouraging an environment and mindset that enables a learning organisation.
The “how” of leadership development
It is well understood and accepted that leadership can be developed. The practice of leadership development is a combination of self-awareness, learning for learning’s sake, reflective practice and adjustment.
Starting with self-awareness, one of the easiest ways to achieve this is to seek feedback. Ego often makes it challenging for leaders to seek and respond well to feedback.
In this regard, some useful tools for leadership development are the diagnostic, psychometric and 360° assessment. The use and usefulness of these tools depend on the situation and need, but all three help to create a language that offers organisation wide clarity and insight into a leader’s beliefs and behaviours.
Similarly, leaders are offered better visibility over team feedback and input. Reflective practices and adjustments are often stimulated by “ah-ha” moments leaders experience when new perspectives, paradigms and models challenge their world view and align with their internal and external motivators.
It’s a difficult path and many of the most successful leaders recognise challenges as opportunities and embrace the necessity of discomfort. This attitude and adaptability was reinforced by the APS Review.
The interplay with change
At the Centre for Public Management (CPM), it is well understood that for leadership development programs to be successful, they need to be demonstrably supported by the most senior leaders in the public sector.
It is more than a statement of permission most senior leaders need to give, it is a show of active support which in turn offers agencies freedom to act and explore the new leadership behaviours required that creates lasting impact.
Leadership and change are inextricably linked. Forward thinking public sector organisations are already linking talent management strategies to organisational strategy and thus driving transformation by the people who are in themselves transforming.
The transformation of the APS will be complex and challenging, faced with uncertainty and questioned by our political masters. The capacity of the workforce to sustain intense ongoing cognitive and physical loads during high rates of change was a glaring omission from much of the discussion at the IPAA conference and the APS Review.
Mental and physical health ailments are an ever increasing burden on society and we cannot afford to ignore this.
The need for proactive resilience policies
Leaders play a critical role in workplace culture, wellbeing and stressors. The role of the responsible leader is to integrate proactive and pragmatic wellbeing and resilience programs into the workplace.
Although we, as CPM, encourage a level of discomfort to stimulate self-awareness and growth, psychological safety is central to a leader’s responsibility. Responsible APS leaders are setting the standard with their own behaviour and recognising the limits of human capacity to thrive under constant duress.
On November 20 we invite you to be part of a conversation and experience that explores leadership, resilience and the soft skills needed for the APS of 2030. Register here.