Leading in turbulent times: the challenge for bureaucrats

With government increasingly unpredictable, the challenge is for agency heads to negotiate, be resourceful and adapt at speed. Global thought leader Paul ’t Hart offers some important advice.

Australian governments are increasingly embroiled in a turbulent electoral cycle, political and parliamentary. How a modern public service leader adapts to changing times and changing ideologies while maintaining their credibility is the question for everyone facing these challenges.

Greece is undergoing its greatest political turnaround since the global financial crisis after the election of a left-radical Syriza government. Syriza’s election led to bond market turbulence and fears of a domino-effect of countries leaving the eurozone, and has since been met with a hardline approach from its creditors.

In western Europe, the political landscape is being fragmented as the ideological centre is hollowed out and smaller parties are being elected in their place, according to Utrecht University School of Governance Professor Paul ‘t Hart, who maintains that despite differences in electoral systems it can happen in Australia. And to a degree it already has.

“Centrist, mainstream, majority parties are becoming an endangered species in European politics, and I don’t see any a priori reason why that should not also occur in Australian politics, regardless of the rules,” said ‘t Hart, who also leads the Australia and New Zealand School of Government Towards Strategic Leadership Program.

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