Public vs. Private Sector Leadership Challenges - IEDP
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Public vs. Private Sector Leadership Challenges

Leading in the Civil Service Vs leading in a private corporation - White Paper


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"Government should be run more like a business” is a piece of received wisdom often heard around the free-market world.

In fact it may be unfair to compare these oranges and pears, and whether one sector is more or less efficient than the other is best left to politicians to argue.

However comparing the public to the private sector does raise important issues about the nature of leadership. Are there different challenges associated with leading in the Civil Service as opposed to leading in a private corporation? And do the differences alter the skills and behaviours required or have an impact on leadership development initiatives?

A recent white paper from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), based on research into the US federal government, provides rich insights into the similarities, differences, and critical nuances of public vs. private sector leadership.

You can download the white paper in full above.

The paper is based on feedback from the many participants in CCL's Leadership Development Program (targeted at leaders of managers) and Leadership at the Peak program (targeted at enterprise leaders), who were asked to name their three most important leadership challenges.

As this paper highlights, leaders from both sectors name similar leadership challenges and prioritize them in parallel for the most part, but the unique setting and context found in the public sector leads to subtle, but very real and noteworthy differences. In the CCL research leadership challenges were assessed under these key headings:

  • Balancing multiple work priorities
  • Boundary spanning
  • Building/leading a team
  • Creating/changing culture
  • Developing agility/role transition
  • Influencing
  • Interpersonal conflict
  • Leading team through change
  • Leading/managing organizational change
  • Managing/motivating subordinates
  • Miscellaneous organizational growth
  • Organizational operations/performance
  • Personal leadership
  • Strategic issues
  • Talent management
  • Work/life balance


Download the white paper using the Resource button

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