As governments worldwide deal with the powerful forces transforming society, it has never been more important to consider what constitutes effective public-sector leadership and how to equip leaders with the needed skills.
In our work with clients, we have seen that public entities are most effective when they are headed by leaders who can navigate complex, highly visible positions while prioritizing long-term initiatives over short-term politics. These leaders are grounded in the ethical imperatives and public accountability that are integral to their positions. They motivate people and sustain performance without the benefit of measures widely used in the private sector.
To produce such leaders, the public sector must make leader development a key pillar of its overall strategy for the future. To that end, BCG has created a three-part framework that can help government agencies coach individuals in three areas: personal skills, network leadership, and impact on society.
In addition to dealing with many of the same problems encountered by their private-sector counterparts, public-sector leaders must cope with circumstances that are unique to public entities. These include:
BCG’s client work shows that successful public-sector organizations have leaders who thrive despite trying circumstances because they are articulate, active, and capable. Our public-sector framework is based on three broad characteristics that these individuals have in common: they are transparent leaders, they lead the network, and they have an impact on the country. (See the exhibit.)
Be a Transparent Leader
Public-sector leaders lead for all and must adopt an open style of operating and communicating that can withstand public scrutiny. To that end, they must do the following:
Lead the Network
Public-sector leaders must be consensus builders, partnering with a variety of constituents toward common goals. They must:
Impact the Country
Public-sector leaders must be able to steer through often complex or ill-defined circumstances as well as their own ambitions in order to oversee large-scale projects and mandates that benefit society as a whole. Therefore they must:
Older forms of leadership enablement do not sufficiently prepare government and public-agency leaders for the circumstances they face today.
BCG has developed targeted methodologies to help public-sector leaders cultivate the needed capabilities. Taken together, these methodologies represent a holistic approach to leadership enablement. The tools focus on leaders’ experiences in multiple areas of life and allow them to tailor programs to their needs and design their own curricula.
Public entities are only as good as their leaders. Leaders who cannot set and follow through on strategies create risks for the organizations they lead and for society as a whole. The public sector must adopt a people strategy that includes building the capable leaders that they need to grow and prosper in the future.
ABOUT BOSTON CONSULTING GROUP
Boston Consulting Group partners with leaders in business and society to tackle their most important challenges and capture their greatest opportunities. BCG was the pioneer in business strategy when it was founded in 1963. Today, we work closely with clients to embrace a transformational approach aimed at benefiting all stakeholders—empowering organizations to grow, build sustainable competitive advantage, and drive positive societal impact.
Our diverse, global teams bring deep industry and functional expertise and a range of perspectives that question the status quo and spark change. BCG delivers solutions through leading-edge management consulting, technology and design, and corporate and digital ventures. We work in a uniquely collaborative model across the firm and throughout all levels of the client organization, fueled by the goal of helping our clients thrive and enabling them to make the world a better place.
© Boston Consulting Group 2023. All rights reserved.
For information or permission to reprint, please contact BCG at email@example.com. To find the latest BCG content and register to receive e-alerts on this topic or others, please visit bcg.com. Follow Boston Consulting Group on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter).