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Three tips for effective leadership in the public sector

2 Min Read

Making a difference within the public sector can be difficult. It requires a strong sense of leadership and, in a time of scarce public resources, a broad range of workforce roles.

Here are three effective capabilities which make a 21st century leader, taking into account the latest approaches and techniques uncovered from recent research1:

1) Pay attention to your community

A crucial element is to strive for improvements that benefit the many rather than the few. There is no better way to find routes to this than listening to the people who will be affected by societal changes and involving them in the decision-making process.

An effective leader would therefore aim to engage a broad range of stakeholders to reach the right outcome for their community. This localist approach is widely known to build trust in public sector leaders as they move forward with new policies, taking into account the ‘pooled expertise’ from a range of citizens.

2) Embody commercialism with a conscience

As public resources become stretched, it’s up to public sector leaders to understand and utilise the kind of profit-making and cost-saving skills traditionally associated with private sector management.

That’s not to say that public sector leaders should prioritise commercialism over social values, but that they will need to tread a fine line that encompasses both. Qualities including being results-driven, budget-conscious and focusing on sector efficiencies will likely become more important in public sector leadership.

3) Champion collaborative working

In previous years, the concept of a public sector leader tended to centre more around the notion of ‘hero leaders’1. However, the dispersement of services and resources means that the public sector workforce relies more on a network of shared leadership.

The power of people working together cannot be underestimated. When there is a collective ethos behind a project, it’s especially important that leaders work together to achieve an overall goal.

Our 100% Online Masters of Public Administration is taught through the Institute of Local Government Studies (which is part of the School of Government and Society). The programme provides public sector professionals with the knowledge and expertise needed to navigate and progress in this field and offers an entire module dedicated to leadership in public services.

With an Online Masters of Public Administration under your belt, you’ll gain the experience you need to lead affirmative policy and governance change wherever your career takes you. Discover more about this course by contacting our admissions team or filling out our request information form.


  1. NEEDHAM, C. & MANGAN, C. (2014) The 21st Century Public Servant. University of Birmingham [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 14.08.2017]

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