The latest figures suggest the UK public sector employs 5.5 million people, which is 16.7% of all people in employment. It’s a huge, far-reaching employment sector, and the diverse roles within mean leaders and managers are particularly important to keeping everything moving towards its common goal.
As a leader, you should be able to advise, guide, motivate and even inspire, and to deliver this in an under-pressure public sector department is not always easy. Getting the most from your managers in the public sector relies upon investing in your people, putting best practices in place and championing anyone who displays the leadership skills needed to succeed.
The importance of leadership and management in the public sector
Leadership in the public sector is hugely important. It influences job performance and employee satisfaction, but also has a wider role in how government and public agencies perform and are viewed. High-quality leadership is an essential part of good public governance and delivering on promises and goals laid out by the government and other bodies.
Public sector leaders face a different challenge to the private sector. Different competencies can also come into play as accountability, transparency, and other characteristics necessary for public office can be more of a priority in this sector. Public sector leaders are usually more closely tied to procedure and strict governance, meaning their leadership style has to be tailored to a more regimented and procedure-led environment.
7 ways to leverage your workforce’s leadership skills in the public sector
To make the most of the strong leaders in your department or public sector organisation, you have to take a collaborative approach and recognise those employees who harness their managerial skills and use them for wider organisational success. These methods will help you make the most of your best leaders in the public sector:
1. Build a supportive work environment
Recognising, encouraging and helping employees who show leadership skills will help them feel confident in using these skills in any work environment. If people have the confidence to take risks and try new ways of doing things, give them a chance. When it succeeds, you can celebrate, and if it fails, there’s a lesson to learn. Supporting each other helps those with ambitions to lead feel comfortable in testing their ideas and skills.
2. Foster confidentiality
Many public sector organisations deal with highly confidential data and records, and the care and attention shown to these should be extended to your people. The consequences of quoting things you hear or essentially sharing gossip can shatter a reputation and change how people view you as a leader. Encourage everyone to share their thoughts and avoid strong reactions that could see people feeling uncomfortable.
3. Champion open communication
A work environment where the upper echelons never communicate with the regular team rarely succeeds for long. Top-down, open communication with the chance to discuss and explore ideas as a group empowers leaders and brings them trust and respect. Honesty and critique are part of this, as is a direct approach, but this should never fall into rudeness, a sense of superiority, or making people feel like they’re less than others.
4. Finetune your focus
To adequately manage teams, managers need to be focused and make it clear what they expect from others. Define and fully understand what being on task means and ensure people have the support to achieve this. Leadership is not about micromanagement, so It’s vital to give your people the trust to perform well within the parameters your department allows.
5. Demonstrate proper attitudes to learning
Leadership skills can be learned, and offering skills development can help people with the basic mindset and a willingness to learn become strong and reliable leaders within the team. Developing strong leadership training programmes can help transform those with the ability to succeed and lead into the most reliable and confident leaders within your teams.
6. Make collaboration a priority
The traditional view of the public sector leader is someone who stands apart and rules from above, but this isn’t how our workplaces operate today. The power of collaboration and pooling the talents of all your people allows leaders to perform more effectively and gives you the chance to leverage the leadership skills within your team as well as just those of the designated management team. Remembering that you’re all working towards a common goal allows people the confidence to share their ideas and suggestions in a way that may not have been considered before.
7. Reap the rewards of technological advancement
83% of senior public leaders say they’re willing and able to adopt intelligent technologies, and cleverly harnessing the power of artificial intelligence can make public sector leadership more effective and allow more time for the human side of the role. The public sector is bound by more strict governance than private sector companies, which means adopting new technologies may be slower. However, once the right tools are in place, your people are freed from many of the more mundane tasks which can be automated. Instead, they can utilise their managerial and leadership skills more effectively for the department’s success and work towards key goals.
Meet and exceed goals with improved public sector leadership
Turning your focus towards the leadership and managerial skills already within your team, and upskilling those with potential, allows your organisational goals to remain front and centre. Many public sector departments and organisations have challenging goals to meet. With a renewed focus on leadership skills and developing individuals with potential, meeting and exceeding targets seems much more possible.