What makes leading in government different from leading anywhere else? This introduction discusses the similarities and differences between leading in federal, state, and local government (and elsewhere) and lay out 3–4 opportunities and challenges that come with leading in government.
- Why don't more leaders go to work in the government? One of the reasons given is a lack of clarity of what's required to lead in government. So let's see if we can get clarity as to what leaders in government do by talking about four challenges, and the corresponding opportunities. In government, you're faced with a different type of work. You have customers and stakeholders who are looking for products and services that are fundamentally unique. The scope and impact of work is dictated by the Constitution, at the highest levels of government. By state and territorial laws, and on the local level by regulations and policies.
This is often called bureaucracy, and can lead to a slower pace of work. These requirements are put in place to insure there's a higher level of checks and balances. It helps leaders in the government make sure the work they do can withstand the highest level of scrutiny by multiple audiences. Public leaders are also faced with greater challenges motivating employees. Public employees are often faced with heavier workloads because of budgeting priorities, constraints, and hiring policies. Public workers also face negative perceptions due to many factors beyond their control.
So why choose to lead these workers when there are so many potential performance management issues? Because you have the opportunity to help them help others. You can experience personal satisfaction when you help those you lead see how they are important part of the process. And contribute to making life better in that community. The biggest challenge when leading in government is the budget. There are budget formulation and execution constraints, along with required purchasing processes and limits. Budgets also affect who and how many you could hire, so departments are often one deep.
As a leader in government, this gives you the opportunity to think of the best possible way to do the work. You have a limited amount of resources, so you need to do things better. Stretch, and be a risk taker, and introduce needed innovation that can change peoples lives. And finally, as a public leader, there's a difference when managing the team. The nature of your teams goal varies greatly from what is done in private industry. Public accountability is inherent in what you do and how you do it. This gives you a wonderful opportunity to build teamwork through shared goals and experiences.
As a leader, facilitate a learning organization, by making time for your team to share, and to help one another. Let them know you're all in this together. As with anything, one you know what's required, you can work diligently toward that goal. That's true for leading in private industry, and the public sector. In the latter, having more challenges means more opportunities to make the government better at being of the people, by the people, and for the people.
- Connecting vision to mission in government
- Translating work objectives into plans
- Budgeting for public leaders
- Developing and motivating employees
- Boosting your listening skills
- Presentation skills for government leaders
- Leading through trends and change
- Making timely and thoughtful decisions