Two very different but equally valuable reads for public sector leaders

By Chris Johnson

February 5, 2021

These are not so much book reviews as they are brief overviews and big recommendations.

One book is a riveting academic exploration of governance and accountability. It compares Australia’s structures to those of the People’s Republic of China as well as Taiwan.

The other book is a brilliant hands-on manual for leaders who are interested in coaching – and shouldn’t that be all leaders?

First to Designing Governance Structures for Performance and Accountability, published by Australian University Press with Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG).

Edited by Andrew Podger, Tsai-Tsu Su, John Wanna, Hon S. Chan, and Meili Niu, this work is a symposium of papers originating from a workshop at City University, Hong Kong, examining how governance structures may be designed to promote performance and to ensure accountability.

“A common development in the three jurisdictions has been to reduce the number of ‘core’ departments or agencies over time. In part, this was intended to help the political leadership exercise greater control over the whole government.”

This is a fascinating read, with in-depth accounts of the varying approaches from three governments. It also highlights some unexpected similarities between otherwise vastly different systems.

“There are differences in the wider political institutional frameworks, jurisdictional histories, stages of economic development and social contexts. This results in numerous and diverse public policy and management challenges,” it reads.

“There is, however, shared interest in improving accountability and performance in government, and in finding structure that best support accountability and performance.”

Highly recommended.

Next, to a completely different book: In the Moment Coaching for Leaders, by Sangeeta Pilger and Jane Boardman.

Sub-titled Quick and Effective Strategies to Inspire, Connect and Excel, this work is itself an inspiring read.

Pilger is a regular contributor to The Mandarin and well-known to our readers. Both authors are highly-regarded executive coaches who have worked extensively with the public and private sectors.

This is a hands-on manual, packed with case studies, contemporary techniques and valuable lessons for leaders who aspire to get the very best from their teams and themselves.

“When put into practice, a coaching mindset is what a leader brings to their everyday conversations,” the authors write.

“A coaching mindset is about having a meaningful impact in the moment as well as over time. When leaders bring a coaching mindset, everyday challenges become an opportunity for individual and team development and empowerment by creating the opportunity for team members to resolve issues.”

This work offers high-level tips for leadership. It is a free-flowing, easy read yet extremely insightful.

“When leaders combine their coaching skills with an understanding about what enables career satisfaction and what is relevant to people’s career stages, clarity on career pathways or options is more likely to ensue.”


“By understanding our preferences and those of our team members, we are better able to understand where our thinking preferences automatically take us and become more aware of what we are assuming about the other person. We also become more aware of our own triggers and what we need to do to communicate and interact more effectively.”

There is a reason this book has fast become a #1 Amazon Best Seller.

Also highly recommended.


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