Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Leadership Challenges in the Public Sector of the 21st Century

Leaders of the Past 

Today’s leaders of the public sector are facing a number of challenges which are keeping them from establishing their goals in the friendly environment they first expected to be working in. However, some of these challenges are the cause of the people who are being mistaken for leaders. Other challenges exist due to the fact that the public sector is not yet ready for leadership.
The public sector needs to improve its services in order to attain the economic self-sufficiency it needs for more independence in their future operations. Hence, there is a growing demand for the implementation of the concept of leadership in the system of ideologies of the public organizations. Leaders- and not managers- are said to be the only ones who are capable of carrying out the task of delivering better services to the public. However, the leaders of the public organizations “are often selected for their technical expertise, and they lack preparation for leadership” Morse & Buss (2009). The same public organizations often end up with having managers leading their teams instead of leaders. That is why, according to Kotter, organizations failed to create the needed change because they were “trying to manage change instead of leading it” (cited in Suganya, 2012). Furthermore, according to a research study aiming to identify the “Best leadership practices in Public sector organizations in Western Europe”, public organizations are being challenged to boost their performance and competence, and amend their attitudes towards leadership.
Leadership expertise and technical expertise are two different things. However, they are both fundamental in order to create competent and high-performing public-sector organizations. An effective leader needs to have both. Beside the technical knowledge that a person receives from formal education, one needs practice and experience to have what it takes to become a leader. An effective leader needs to “create positive organizational cultures, strengthen motivation, clarify mission and organizational objectives, and steer organizations to more productive and high performing outcomes” (Suganya, 2012). Thereupon, government leadership concerns about evolving take into account “creative thinking, collaboration, cross-organizational team building and leading for results” (Suganya, 2012).
For a leader to accomplish his/her goals and objectives, s/he needs to be in control of the entourage and environment. The environmental and cultural structures of the public sector does not often promote for the concept of leadership. On the contrary, it constrains leaders and prevents them from developing true and effective leadership and eventually meeting the ultimate goals of improving the services provided by the public sector. It is a challenging quest to “cultivate a performance management culture” and to know how to manage a situation where the environment is “hostile” and “ever-changing”. It is also necessary to be knowledgeable of and keep oneself up-to-date with the latest advances in information technology and make use of the latter in order to keep up with the “increased demands for quality service” and “sustainable development”. What is even more challenging, especially in developing countries, is the fact that leaders need to deal with “increased poverty, low performing employees, corruption and an acute shortage of financial, material and human resources” (Suganya, 2012). That is why an effective leader needs to anticipate both the benefits and downsides which the team will encounter during the execution of a task, project or operation. S/he needs to cope him/herself with the market demands and global economic shifts and be ready for all types of sudden events.
The leader of the 21st century is being challenged to work in a tricky environment, which is the public sector, where the managers and employees are not yet fully ready to completely embrace the concept of leadership. In order to reach their goals, leaders are yet to leapfrog a number of challenges to prove themselves worthy of the title. 

Bozeman, B., & Rainey, H. (2000). Comparing Public and Private Organizations: Empirical Research and the Power of a Priori. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory: J-PART. Vol. 10, No. 2, Tenth Anniversary Issue, pp. 447-469.
Morse, Ricardo S. and Terry E. Buss, Eds. Innovations in Public Sector Leadership.
Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2009.

Suganya. G., (2012). Strategies and Challenges in Quality Leadership in the Public Sector. International Journal of Business Intelligence. Vol 01, Issue 02. P 57-60. 

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