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Friday, 26 February 2016

Building our Future: Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders

Neetu Sharma



Three myths about developing talent in the public service:

Myth #1: The types of public service leaders we need today are the same types we’ll need tomorrow
Reality: The increasingly dynamic and complex environment in government requires public sector leaders to navigate challenges while under constant pressure and scrutiny. Understanding change management at both personal and organization levels, relationship- and network- building, and how to best employ information and technology—these are all key for tomorrow’s leaders to lead effectively.  While governments have taken some steps toward developing these skills, there is much work to do to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

Myth #2: Focus on top-talent leadership development programs will suffice.
Reality: To be effective, leadership development should span all employee categories, creating a shared culture of leadership to tackle complex issues. Distributed leadership is also a must to attract and ready the next generation of leaders (University of Oxford, 2013).

Myth #3: Talent development starts when an employee is first hired.
Reality: Governments must start working more strategically and comprehensively with primary, secondary and post-secondary institutions to address the leadership needs of tomorrow, closing critical competency gaps and institutionalizing leadership in the curriculum.

Three things to know about talent development in the public service:

Tomorrow’s public service leadership will:
1. Nurture talent—To attract and retain talent, governments must proactively address talent retention and leadership building through broad, cross-organizational experiences and learning opportunities. Incorporating employee priorities into organizational culture and educating managers on tools are imperative, as are strategically measuring and addressing employee satisfaction on an ongoing basis.

2. Build relationships—To perform effectively in an increasingly interconnected world, leaders will be bridge-builders—developing strong working relationships and connections at all levels between governments, businesses, not-for-profit sectors, and the public—to address differences and achieve results collaboratively.

3. Adapt—Leading people and leading change requires leaders to be adaptable. Cherishing diversity of opinion in their networks, leaders stay flexible and bring motivational and strategic insights to deal with uncertainty and inspire others for collaborative action.

To learn more about what the public service and educational systems are doing to develop tomorrow’s leaders, visit the Café Pracademique website.


Neetu Sharma is a graduate student with the University of Alberta School of Business. Her research interests include cross-sector collaborations and educational issues. More specifically, her work examines the potential of partnerships spanning the government, private and not-for-profit sectors as well as the role of education and mentorship in leadership development.

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