Leadership & Management
Driving organisational productivity and performance through inspiration towards a common goal.
Effective leadership and management inspires a sense of purpose and drives high performance.
Leadership is demonstrated by action at all levels and enables others to achieve goals. APS leaders focus and continuously develop their skills in response to evolving challenges and complexity.
What is Leadership & Management within the APS?
It's not leadership and management that you might just pick up and read in a textbook or go to a course that multiple institutions in the private sector run. This is really about how you do leadership management in the public service, understanding the environment that we're in and the unique role that we have in supporting government and what that means.
How do Leadership and Management work together in the APS?
When you're talking about management, it's really about our role in terms of accountability. And so we're very conscious that whatever we do, we do for the community and for the Australian government. We use funding that is provided to us through taxpayers. So being accountable and also transparent on how we do that, I think, is part of that good management and really being very clear on what we're doing, how we deliver good project management, and I think that for me, that's management, whereas I think leadership is much more about how we inspire our staff, how we pull together the vision that we have for the work that we do, how you connect that to the vision of the government and for the country. It's much... I think the two exist together, but a good public servant, you need to be good at both really.
How can we all exercise leadership within the APS?
In the public service, I think people can exercise leadership at any level within the service. It just changes depending on which level you're at and what your role is in a particular position. But leadership is really around understanding the vision, setting the vision, inspiring your staff to do their best, to build their capability. And I think that for all public servants, it's pretty important that we all kind of understand that and exercise it at the different levels that we can to help to build capability and to be able to deliver for government and the community.
What skills will our future APS leaders need?
We also need people that have the learning agility or the ability to continually learn and pick up new skills and knowledge, so people that are inquisitive, and I think they're the two kind of focus areas that are really important for the future in terms of whether it's leadership or management, but we need to be very conscious that we also need people that have got that growth mindset and that have the ability to engage, to listen, to influence, and who can read a room, so that emotional intelligence, the ability to connect and understand what's happening around you, and to continually develop and to grow because the world is changing.
Effective leaders must:
- Demonstrate ethical leadership, leading for wellbeing and valuing diversity and inclusion
- Navigate complexity within a strategic and political context to achieve positive outcomes
- Scan the horizon for emerging trends, identifying opportunities and challenges and inspiring a collective purpose
- Skilfully influence stakeholders to ensure complex relationships are productive
- Provide frank and fearless advice in order to create integrity and impact in services
Management is the use of formal authority and processes to ‘get things done’ in the right way. Effective management is critical to promoting high performance in the APS.
Frameworks and methodologies
The Secretaries Talent Council, with the endorsement of the Secretaries Board have identified the leadership capabilities considered critical for success in the most senior roles in the APS.
The ILS provides capability development guidance for individuals and agencies in the form of descriptions and behaviours for all levels in the Australian Public Service. It contains practical tools for individuals and agencies to chart leadership development.
This OECD Legal Instrument, adopted by the OECD Public Governance Committee, outlines how countries can ensure that their public services are fit-for-purpose for contemporary policy challenges, and capable of taking the public sector into the future. It sets out 14 principles for a fit-for-purpose public service to achieve (1) values-driven culture and leadership, (2) skilled and effective public servants, and (3) responsive and adaptive public employment systems.
This guide forms part of the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions. The guide is designed to support agencies to adopt performance management practices at all levels of their organisations that contribute to a high-performance APS culture.
Tools and templates
Professor Robert Cialdini developed what he describes as ‘six universal principles of persuasion’. These fundamental human states allow leaders to increase the likelihood of influencing others.
Gabriele Oettingen presents the ‘WOOP’ model which is a practical, accessible, evidence based mental strategy that people can use to find and fulfil their wishes and change their habits. WOOP is a tool which enables leaders to identify an important wish, imagine both the outcome and obstacle, then make a plan to overcome the barriers preventing them from accomplishing your goals.
Barbara Fredrickson presents the ‘Broaden and Build’ theory which explores how broadening our perspectives and actions, we tend to build important and lasting physical, intellectual, psychological and social resources. Some of the implications of broaden and build theory are that positive emotions may have an undoing effect on the residue of negative emotions.
Through this checklist, Brene Brown suggests that leaders can give constructive and honest feedback from a place of engagement, rather than judgment. She uses the metaphor ‘Sitting on the same side of the table,’ something that demands a high degree of vulnerability on the part of both parties.
Martin Seligman presents the ‘PERMA’ model which steps through five elements essential to human wellbeing and flourishing: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement. Leaders can use this model to encourage others to flourish, and also to understand how they can improve their own wellbeing.
Nancy Kline suggests that ‘The Thinking Environment’ is a process that generates quality independent thinking. Kline highlights how ‘Thinking Environments’ arise when ten specific components are fostered. Leaders can apply this model in the context of coaching, mentoring, communities of practice, problem solving sessions, and team meetings.
Networks and centres of excellence
The Australian Government Leadership Network (AGLN) provides events and conferences for leaders across all cohorts in the Australian Public Service to exchange ideas, share knowledge, and contribute to the development of Public Sector initiatives.
In her TED talk, ‘The power of believing that you can improve’ (2014), Carol Dweck discusses the ‘growth mindset’ which leaders can use to build their brain’s capacity to learn and solve problems.
In this video, Caroline Webb (2018) discusses the ‘discover-defend axis’ which is a model that suggests that the brain has two ‘modes’ which shape the way humans interact. Leaders can use this tool to more effectively take in information, make decisions, and meaningfully connect with others.
Kristin Neff highlights three elements of self-compassion and stresses the importance of having compassion for oneself. Self-compassion can allow leaders to understand themselves and others, as well as manage interactions more effectively.
What makes a leader sound compelling - even when delivering bad news? Speaker coach Noah Zandan has collected and analysed data on how visionary leaders talk and, in this TED talk, Zandan (2016) examines the key elements of how visionary leaders talk. One surprising takeaway: Great leaders speak in the present tense.
In this TED talk, Jason Clarke (2010) analyses the change process and how to support people to embrace change. This is especially valuable for leaders involved in change management processes or broader organisational change.
Key leadership thought-leader, Ronald Heifetz (2009) explains the concept of adaptive leadership and highlights the importance of knowing the difference between adaptive and technical challenges as a leader.
Lisa Lahey (2017) explores how leaders can transcend habitual patterns, and considers how to navigate change and complexity.
In this TED talk, ‘Flow, the secret to happiness’ (2004), Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi presents the ‘Flow’ model and the different elements involved in achieving flow. Leaders can use the Flow model to understand how to find lasting satisfaction in work.
In this video, Brené Brown (2013) explains how to create a genuine empathic connection through understanding ourselves and our own fragilities.
Recommended reading list
The APS Academy has curated a list of recommended readings which includes key research from thought leaders and experts in the areas of leadership and management.
APS Academy Courses
SES Band 2 Leadership Development Program - View course
The SES Band 2 leadership program strengthens the leadership capability of senior executives to effectively perform the range of high-level responsibilities. Band 2 executives play a critical role in shaping and implementing corporate strategy, building a positive and high-performing workplace culture, and managing risks and opportunities of complex agency-wide and whole-of-government initiatives.
SES Band 1 Leadership Development Program – Face to Face | Virtual
The SES Band 1 Leadership program strengthens the leadership capability of experienced senior executives across the broader APS, to effectively deliver on their key accountabilities. Band 1 executives play a critical role in setting the strategic direction of their group, building a positive and high-performing workplace culture, and making significant decisions on individual policies and course for which they are directly accountable to government.
Leading in the Digital Age – Virtual
The Leading in a Digital Age program supports SES and EL2 participants to recognise the challenges and opportunities of leading in the digital age to meet the expectations of citizens, business and other users of government services.
Women in Leadership Program - View course
The Women in Leadership program aims to support women executives aspiring to take on more senior or complex leadership roles. The program seeks to enhance your ability to exercise leadership effectively within organisational structures and practices that present specific challenges for women. You will be provided with an opportunity to build networks of support and to develop practical skills to enhance your leadership practice.
EL2 Leadership Expansion Program – Virtual
The EL2 Expansion online program supports participants in giving full expression to their role by developing leadership skills which are critical in dealing with complex APS challenges and progressing strategic priorities. Participants engage in a range of challenging and supportive development experiences including, interactions with senior public sector executives, group discussions, working with real-world public sector examples, and workplace learning assignments.
SES Orientation - View course
Designed for newly promoted or long term acting SES from within the APS, and newly recruited SES from outside the APS.
This program aims to increase the confidence of managers in using formal authority to achieve business outcomes. This will be done by examining managerial responsibilities in a series of workplace simulations and role plays. Learners will be immersed in plausible scenarios to facilitate learning through practice. This allows the exploration of options and decisions without concern for real time consequences.
Examine the legislative framework and best practice APS Performance Management Model. Aspects covered include the tools for performance management monitoring, review and evaluation, identifying employee development and support needs, providing constructive feedback on performance, and managing levels of performance (including high and under performance). Complete practical activities to identify what works and discuss with others why performance management needs to be meaningful to supervisors, employees, and the government.
Planning and Managing Change – Virtual
This course details the role of management and leadership in times of change. Explore leadership personality types and develop behaviours to successfully introduce and integrate new practices in the workplace. Identify and adopt models of basic change management and understand the processes involved using workplace.
Working in Teams – Face to Face
Team development and the value of teams in the workplace are explored in-depth. Examine how specific team roles add to team effectiveness and examine your team role preferences. Build an understanding of different working and communicating styles. Walk away with a personalised plan you can use when participating in teams. NOTE: It is recommended you complete this course prior to the Building and leading high performing teams program.
Breakthrough Conversations – Face to Face
The Breakthrough Conversations program is designed to build on existing leadership capabilities to support SES Bands 1-3 to conduct breakthrough conversations across a range of relevant contexts. The practical component of this program will provide you with an opportunity to practise relevant conversation skills in complex situations to achieve outcomes that are relevant to the real-life contexts experienced by APS SES
This course helps managers create and maintain high-performing teams where work is aligned with government priorities. Learn how to analyse and describe high-performing teams, identify the enablers and barriers, and explain the management practices required. Examine team strengths and areas for improvement and plan pathways to build a high-performance culture in the workplace. Benefit from meeting and sharing thoughts, experiences and ideas about building and leading high-performing teams with other managers.
Strategic Leadership – Virtual
Take an in-depth look at shaping strategy through a sense of purpose and direction, using information and opportunities, and showing judgement and common sense. Use environmental scanning and best practice models and tools to help anticipate the consequences and trade-offs of actions.
Managing Remote Teams – Virtual
Practical coaching and training for managers on how to manage their teams in a remote environment. Participants will have the opportunity to develop skills, and discuss concerns and barriers with flexible remote working arrangements. This will be achieved by taking a ‘top down’ approach to implementing remote flexible teams. Participants will be given a framework approach for their team to support a high performing remote and flexible working team.
Performance Management eLearning Module - eLearning
This eLearning module explores the APS model of Performance management
Coaching and Developing Others eLearning Module – eLearning
The module introduces participants to coaching conversations and the manager-as-coach model.
Coaching and Developing Others – Virtual
This course is designed to improve the way APS employees coach and manage others so they can deliver improved outcomes, ultimately resulting in higher APS productivity.
Transitioning to Remote Work – eLearning
More and more organisations are turning to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, few are prepared for the transition. Setting up a remote workforce takes more than dispensing laptops—it takes careful planning and oversight. This module has been made available by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment in response to COVID-19 and collaborative efforts to share learning across the APS . You should consider the module in the context of your agencies’ policies and procedures.
The program provides opportunities for Executive Level employees to complete a 6-week secondment in Indigenous organisations in communities across Australia. Longer term, six to 12 week ‘Empowered Communities’ secondments are available to SES Band 1 or high performing Executive Level 2 employees.
Conflict Resolution – Virtual
This course teaches the skills to respond to workplace and organisational conflict. This practical skills-based program explores the causes of workplace conflict, ways to identify and address the early signs, tools to reduce anxiety and talk skilfully about difficult issues and behaviours in a professional and resilient manner.
Conflict Resolution for Managers – Virtual
This program teaches the skills to respond to workplace and organisational conflict as a manager, including the tools to coach and support others. This practical skills based program explores the causes of workplace conflict, ways to identify and address the early signs, tools to reduce anxiety and talk skilfully about difficult issues and behaviours in a professional and resilient manner.
The Sir Roland Wilson Foundation PhD Scholarship program is open to Executive Level APS employees to study for a PhD full-time at the Australian National University on issues of national significance.
The Sir Roland Wilson Foundation, Pat Turner Scholarship is open to Indigenous Australian Public Servants from participating agencies. The scholarship is designed to give the future leaders of the APS an opportunity to undertake post-graduate study at either the Australian National University or Charles Darwin University.
Available to APS6 and Executive Level employees, the Public Sector Management Program is a post-graduate study course designed for public sector employees to develop management skills in the business of government. The program award is a Graduate Certificate in Business (Public Sector Management).