Not all, but many in the public service have forgotten the larger mission, have become demoralized, and have adopted a behaviour of mediocrity.
How could they not?
Politicians are stuck in ideological dogma. Leadership is based on polling, not principles. Open discussion and debate has been replaced by social media rants. Organizational strategy is developed among only the chosen few. The average front line employee is six levels removed from the decision-making table. Risk-taking has been abandoned because of the fear of making a mistake. Career advancement comes through internal politics and lateral moves. Unions have considered innovation to be a threat to membership. Professional development is rudimentary, underfunded and ineffective. And no coaching is provided to uplift and challenge the next generation of leaders.
No wonder high-performance isn’t talked about within the public service. No wonder employees are lulled into complacency. And no wonder we don’t talk about leadership in the public service.
Given we have over 5.6 million people employed in the high-purpose calling of the public service, over 30% of the employed population, this culture of complacency and mediocrity needs to be identified as a tragedy of the human spirit across our country.
- As public service employees, we should demand so much more;
- As public service leaders, we are capable of so much more; and
- As citizens and taxpayers, we must expect so much more.
As a nation, we need a fundamental change of perspective and attitude in what we expect from our public service organizations. We need to embrace a new philosophy of leadership for our institutions. We have big topics to tackle, like how to educate our children, care for the elderly, house the homeless, treat our environment, strengthen our economy, narrow the income gap, reduce our debt levels, and so many others.
These topics are not new, but they are not being solved. We continually try to solve these complex issues by approaching them as the same situation with the same mindset and with the same leadership philosophy as before.
And it isn’t working.
We now need a new generation of leaders to step up and change the out-dated ways in which we operate our public service institutions. We need to unleash the talent within that wants to make a difference, wants to solve problems, and wants to change the world. We need to challenge the performance of our bureaucracies, and realize that our current approach is only self-perpetuating a culture of non-performance.
We deserve so much better. No more excuses. It is time to expect more.