Public Sector Challenges

Today’s challenges related to sustainable development are complicated, interconnected, and demand whole-of-stakeholder approaches.

What does it mean for leadership?

  • Leaders do not provide solutions they should create opportunities for others to come together and create solutions.
  • Leaders should be enablers for people to manage uncertainty, chaos, and emergence.

Working together to solve problems, even when values are shared, can be a difficult process. Leaders must understand that the tension, conflict and uncertainty that come from differences provide great potential for the creative emergence of viable solutions. In the context of complex and uncertain environments, Leadership should thus be understood as an inclusive, collaborative, and reflective process, rooted in values and ethics.

Not only does a public leader need to tackle his or her country’s or organisation’s challenges. He/she also needs to deal with the challenges of leadership itself. Leadership constantly presents challenges to a leader and his/her abilities.

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Categorizing challenges

The Center for Creative Leadership researched on the challenges that leaders face around the world. The results show that, in their own words, the challenges faced by all these leaders across the world are very similar. The most challenging tasks can be gathered into six main categories. Strategies to overcome the challenges, can be summarized in two categories:

1) Develop managerial effectiveness

 1. Goal-setting is important: Be proactive in setting goals, and with setting the timelines and deadlines required to meet those goals.

2. Delegate more: Delegating can, in fact, make you more productive. The act of delegation can also empower the people to whom you have given work.

3. Work on tasks that maximize your unique value-add: Among all the organizational priorities, there will always be important tasks that only you can do. These are the tasks on which you should focus. As a result, you will maximize your specific value to the organization. Everything else, try to delegate.

4. Gain some role clarity: Understand what your work does and does not entail. With that, you may have to practice and be comfortable saying “no.”

2) Develop relationship skills

1. Take an active role in mentoring, coaching, and developing others: Provide challenging opportunities for others, promote your employees to upper management, and empower others to increase their area of competence. Support your employees by providing guidance and feedback. 

2. Meet the needs of your employees: It’s not just making sure that your employees have the right software or enough office supplies. You also have to meet their psychological and social needs. Many people need to be validated by others and desire to be part of something. 

3. Manage team effectiveness: Make sure your team has a clear purpose, strong support, and effectively shares information among the group and with important stakeholders outside the group.


Overcoming Challenges

Communication is at the center of what leaders do, interacting with followers, peers and partners. Especially in an international context, communication is often hindered through a number of barriers. This chapter examines the importance of communication as a leadership tool and how to develop related skills, with a particular focus on intercultural communication.

  1. Communication is the tool to exchange information, claims, and appeals.
  2. Themeaning of a phrase can depend on the listener’s understanding of social conventions.
  3.  Misinterpretations can lead to many misunderstandings and/or tensions.

To become a better communicator, you can follow three guidelines:

Learn through new experiences

In principle it is simple: the more you communicate the better you will become. However, it is not enough. To effectively learn through new experiences, you need to:

  • Step out of your comfort zone
  • Become more self aware, learn what your strengths and limitations are, and expose yourself to them
  • Work on your strengths and weaknesses

Get feedback and accept it

Being a great leader means giving and receiving feedback get feedback and accept it. Part of becoming a better communicator is actively seeking feedback and reflect on it. Here are some things to keep in mind on feedback:

  • Take a deep breath. It is all too easy to go on the defensive when receiving feedback so take a moment for a deep breath and to think about what you’ve just been told.
  • Try to remain cool. If you find this hard, just ask for a moment to compose yourself.
  • Accept it. Even the most experienced workers can lose awareness of health and safety. Sometimes it needs someone looking in from the outside to make us aware of potentially dangerous working practices.
  • Ask questions. The feedback should ideally include suggestions on how you can improve.
  • Learn from it. Try to see feedback as an opportunity to learn rather than a threat. Take it in the spirit it is intended – to improve your own capabilities.

Find Role Models

Observing how others do it is a great way to learn. Is there anybody in your environment who you think has an effective style of communication? Observe and focus on them; you need your own style, but you also need inspiration. If you don’t personally know anyone that description would fit to, you can find a public figure and learn from their appearances.


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