Organizational leadership is a management approach that works toward empowering individuals to become effective leaders, while also keeping a company’s goals as the top priority. For those preparing for a career in public administration – whether it be in civil departments, agencies or government – the following five components are essential aspects of organizational leadership for public administrators to understand, as they highlight key skills and responsibilities necessary for assisting others and inspiring success in order to grow and develop a strong organization.
A strong strategic leader in public administration may originate from any level of an organization. They possess a firm understanding of the institution’s vision and goals, as well as the ability to effectively communicate those objectives and see them through to execution. Strategic leadership requires six key skills: the abilities to anticipate, challenge, interpret, decide, align and learn.
Public administrators must develop strategic thinking skills, as they often deal with a variety of dissenting viewpoints and opinions both within and outside of their respective organization. Responding strategically to strong opinions—which includes being open to compromises or pushing for frank discussions among employees and team leaders—can help a public administrator maintain stability within an organization. Additionally, a good strategic leader constantly monitors industry trends, enabling him or her to anticipate changes in markets. As a result, these individuals are able to not only seamlessly take on issues, but also delegate tasks to those who would ostensibly excel at tackling the given challenge. Strategic thinkers are also good at challenging assumptions and considering a variety of viewpoints before taking decisive action.
The organizational analysis is the process of reviewing the work environment, development, personnel and operations of an organization. Leaders in public administration can expect to perform periodic, detailed analyses of their organization in order to understand where adjustments can be made to enhance performance. The comprehensive analysis of a public or private body can be a useful way for leaders to identify inefficiencies or unaddressed issues that impact an organization’s clientele – particularly in governmental offices such as the Department of Motor Vehicles. Once an analysis has been completed, strategic leaders develop strategies to remedy systemic issues, thereby increasing efficiency for employees and in addressing public needs.
Conflict in the workplace can have a wide variety of causes – from philosophical differences or divergent political leanings to differing long-term organizational goals. Unresolved conflicts in the workplace can hinder productivity and erode trust, creating an unhealthy work environment. Conflict is particularly detrimental to public administration officials trying to pass legislation or create programming for constituents; therefore, successful public organizations most often rely on collaboration between departments to reach shared goals.
Creative collaboration often takes time and requires open discussion, constructive criticism, allocation of duties to various employees with particular skillsets, and the establishment of priorities and objectives, as well as compromise. Each of the aforementioned components plays an essential role in preventing or resolving a conflict. For example, by establishing short- and long-term objectives, leaders can help reinforce the concept that all team members are working towards the same objectives, allowing for greater compromise to take place in order to benefit the organization as a whole. A common example of the importance of compromise is seen when public administrators are charged with drafting legislation. For instance, during debates around the creation of new pieces of legislation, compromises are often made between two parties who previously could not align with each other to support the passing of a bill.
Leaders are responsible for cultivating a positive work environment that provides tangible benefits for an organization’s employers, employees and clientele. New research in positive organizational psychology has shown that cutthroat work environments are harmful to employee morale and thus, productivity. Cultivating a healthy work culture encompasses many elements, beginning with an organizational leader creating a space free from reprisal where employees and management can support and communicate with one another. Compassion can be demonstrated through the forgiveness of mistakes or the emphasis on positive contributions. When developed properly, a positive work culture is inspiring and involves all employees treating one another with respect, trust, integrity and gratitude.
In public administration, a positive workplace culture starts with strong organizational leaders who create an environment of empathy, where employees’ concerns and values are validated and they have a say in helping shape policy. When employees know that a leader is committed to operating from a set of values based on mutual respect, that attitude can trickle down to the rest of the organization, ensuring that other employees will follow suit. For example, if a leader is visibly passionate about doing everything they can to help their local community—like volunteering at a local food bank or participating in a charity walk—this passion can inspire their staff, who may then feel driven to follow in their leader’s footsteps and pursue additional community involvement opportunities.
Another critical task for organizational leaders is to effectively establish and communicate the vision, core beliefs, and overarching goals of an institution, not only to his or her employees but also to the broader public. Ensuring employees understand short-term personal and team goals can help align them with the company’s mission; this can lead to an increase in productivity as well as a greater sense of purpose among staff members. Part of that output is the successful communication of those goals to the public. For instance, municipal governments might have the overarching goal of reducing traffic; public administrators can translate this mission statement into practical plans, tasking individual departments within the organization with creating a solution that will address all aspects of urban congestion – while effectively communicating that goal to the public. A city council may issue a news release stating that it will spend a certain amount of money in the upcoming year on initiatives to ease congestion. The Office of Public Transportation might launch a public relations campaign encouraging more people to ride the bus to help the city reduce the prevalence of single-vehicle commuting. In this way, members of the public are not only made aware of the institution’s vision, they become active participants within it. By clearly determining and communicating the overall vision to both the public and to employees, public administrators can ensure that every objective and corresponding assignment originates from the same vision.
Understanding the tools for effective organizational leadership strategies for public administrators is valuable for helping to not only boost organizational performance at the group level, but also with helping public administrators to become truly effective leaders for their organization and communities. By becoming well-versed in strategic leadership and utilizing accompanying key skills, public administrators can bring positive change to their respective communities, guaranteeing that the critical needs of the public are met properly and in a timely fashion.
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Strategic Leadership: The Essential Skills, Harvard Business Review
Proof that Positive Work Cultures are More Productive, Harvard Business Review