It’s getting harder to stand out from the crowd, according to the latest figures published by the Australian Public Service Commission. Just don’t expect senior leaders to take time out to help develop you for the next career level.
An astonishing 87% of Commonwealth senior executives rate their immediate supervisor highly. Given how nearly every public sector workplace has moved to a 360 degree assessment model for senior leaders, those voices matter.
Although slightly less so, competition at EL2 and SES Band 1 levels is also high, with some 79% of their subordinates saying they have a good supervisor. Although perhaps they could do a bit more to encourage their staff, given (a still healthy) 66% of those staff give their boss the tick for that leadership task.
|I have a good immediate supervisor||80%||79%||87%|
|My immediate supervisor encourages me||64%||66%||76%|
Why do Commonwealth senior executives have such a high opinion of their immediate supervisor? The gloss comes off a bit if you look at the other questions that were asked, particularly since it includes the APS and Executive Level grades where engagement is notably lower.
|In my agency, the senior leadership is of a high quality||46||52||52|
|In my agency, the most senior leaders are sufficiently visible (e.g. can be seen in action)||47||49||50|
|In my agency, communication between senior leaders and other employees is effective||38||41||42|
|In my agency, senior leaders engage with staff on how to respond to future challenges||42||47||47|
|In my agency, senior leaders give their time to identify and develop talented people||28||29||30|
|In my agency, senior leaders communicate effectively regarding the business risks that we face||49||48|
|In my agency, senior leaders ensure that work effort contributes to the strategic direction of the agency and the APS||54||54|
|In my agency, senior leaders effectively lead and manage organisational change||41||45||45|
|Senior leaders in my agency lead by example in ethical behaviour||51||51|
|In my agency, senior leaders encourage innovation and creativity||42||43|
It’s notoriously difficult to compare jurisdictions if they aren’t using the same questions and measurement benchmarks. But The Mandarin have more to write on that later.
Developing leadership capability
It’s worth noting that less than a third of Commonwealth public servants see senior leaders as taking time out to identify and develop talented people. But there are alternative teachers.
The APSC’s Strategic Centre for Leadership, Learning and Development has programs across the breadth of EL2 to SES Band 3 on leadership practice and development.
The APSC’s leadership and core skills strategy separates management expertise from leadership practice. The latter is something everyone can model, regardless of their span of control. The strategy quotes former head of the service, Dr Ian Watt:
“In my view, everyone in the APS is a leader, whether or not they have staff working for them. Everyone can model the leadership behaviours that help influence and set the tone for the workplace. Everyone can behave with honesty and integrity, share their skills and expertise, encourage those around them, give praise for good work or progress and notice when someone they work with needs particular help or support. And also I want every member of the APS to be able to develop their ability to lead and to manage.”
But developing that leadership capability is essential as the business environment for APS evolves, the commission argues. “This environment is characterised by a drive for improved productivity, a drive for improved efficiency and effectiveness and transformational change.”
Here are the top five leadership skills the commission argues are needed for effective leadership in such an environment:
- Political nous;
- Strategic thinking;
- People and interaction skills;
- Anticipating future change; and
- Enabling organisations and people to proactively manage change before circumstances force change upon them.
Have your say: what leadership skills do you think are missing from this list?