Let’s explore here how public sector leadership differs from the private sector leadership
The need for speed in decision-making in the public sector could be improved by bringing in leaders with private sector experience, but that might underestimate the complexity of working for an organization that is answerable to politicians and taxpayers. In fact, there is plenty that leaders in the private sector could learn from those in the public sector as both achieve results in different ways.
It has become a phrase now that government would be better if it were run by private-sector managers using standard business practices. So why not explore the domains where the public sector can learn from the private sector and vice versa?
Public sector managers concern themselves with the public interest. This means what the public needs, what’s best for the government or what has the best impact on the overall collective of society. They are about the needs of the majority before the needs of an individual. Private sector management is large, if not wholly, focused on making the business a profit. The primary goal is to make the most money possible for a company or organization to keep it in business.
Public sector government and technology leaders are experiencing the same pressures and expectations as private sector business leaders. Politics aside, citizens- just like customers- expect seamless, digital access to information, services, and resources. Digital and societal transformation are top priorities to navigate whether you are an elected official, government executive, or a leader running a business that serves the public sector.
Leadership in the public sector is more complicated as it combines the political and the administrative. There is a need to build coalitions of the willing and manage sometimes competing interests, so the probability, in my experience, is that the objectives are more numerous and complicated than in the private sector. Therefore, the leadership skills that the private sector can learn from the public sector are ‘stakeholder management and managing complexity.
Strong leadership would certainly be found in any successful organization regardless of sector. Not all organizations are the same just as not all people are the same. It has been argued whether leaders are born or made, or maybe a combination of both. The public and private sectors provide goods and services, for the most part, for the same people (the customer). Employees of these different organizations perform the same tasks and managers deal with the same issues.
For private leaders, setting goals and measuring success is straightforward, because objectives can be clearly defined and measured according to profit and loss. The broader implications for competitors, customers, and suppliers are not considered in the narrow equation for business efficiency. For public leaders, objectives are abstract, overarching, somewhat undefined, and exceptionally difficult to measure. That is because, in the public sector, goals apply to a much broader jurisdiction than a single business. They encompass multiple programs and their success is measured by the overall betterment of society.
In private firms, management relies a great deal on incentives and perks that encourage high performance. This is in line with their primary value of maximizing profit. In the public sector, however, limits are applied to awarding high performance. With the fundamental value of societal well-being, employees are encouraged by their honorable desire to serve the public.
But, when it comes to innovation, I think it’s the public sector that is lacking behind. Innovation is rarely associated with public sector organizations. Red tape, politics, and frustration are often the images that come to mind. This is changing and can be accelerated by borrowing from the private sector. Businesses have learned how to bring innovation into all aspects of companies, including how they do business, how they deliver their products and services, and how they communicate with customers. Public sector leaders point out areas to focus on to bring an innovative mindset to their organizations. This starts with allocating 10-15% of the budget to advanced services to make the organization run more efficiently, provide services that create expanded tax revenue, and improve community standards and participation.