GFOA Conference Takeaway: It Takes a Strong Leader to Succeed in the Public Sector
Anyone working in the public sector has likely heard complaints about how government, education, healthcare, nonprofits, or other organizations should work more like businesses and less like stereotypical governmental agencies. It’s as if they are suggesting that taking on a traditional business model is a guaranteed way to succeed. If that were the case, however, why is it that some businesses are wildly successful, while the rest flounder in mediocrity or fail altogether? Leading and succeeding in the public sector isn’t that simple, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated, either.
Separating Good Leaders from Great Leaders
We had the pleasure of participating in the 2017 Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Annual Conference. Good to Great author Jim Collins delivered the keynote and set the tone for the conference. Collins has studied leadership across the board, from businesses to the public sector, and believes public sector organizations, including governmental financial services, should not operate like traditional businesses. There are other ways to be successful, all stemming from stronger leadership.
Understanding what separates good leaders from great leaders might be a better indicator for determining what separates good public service organizations from more successful ones. What makes a great leader? It’s more than just personality, discipline, or charisma. A great leader has a way of attracting and encouraging a team to follow when there is freedom not to follow. Great leaders aren’t leading a cause; rather, they show humility, understanding that the cause is greater than they are. Ambition is channeled outward and draws in the support from the team.
The Hedgehog Concept
Collins discusses the Hedgehog Concept in his book, Good to Great. The idea is to learn how to produce the best long-term results while also learning how to say ‘no’ to the opportunities that fail the hedgehog test.
The concept has three intersecting circles:
- What are you deeply passionate about?
- What can you be the best in the world at?
- What best drives your economic engine?
It’s important to note that the third point, regarding an economic engine, doesn’t strictly refer to money. Certain public sector organizations rely on other resources and support, such as time, emotional commitment, or volunteers to accomplish their mission. That leads to another key element of success for leaders, which is to surround yourself with the right people.
It Really is Who You Know
Working in the public sector takes a different kind of person with a different set of goals. In the private sector, businesses can hire and fire people, using money to encourage retention and incentivize results from their employees. Public sector organizations don’t typically have the deep pockets to motivate with money. In this case, great leaders look for candidates who are self-motivated, self-disciplined, and driven to support a cause or mission simply because they believe it’s the right thing to do. Having the right people and the right type of leadership will take you far in your efforts to help your community and persevere through changes.
Great Leaders Make the Most of Their Budgets
This is our contribution to the discussion. In the public sector, it’s critical to optimize your finances in pursuit of your mission and goals. Join us on Tuesday, June 6th, 8:00 AM PDT/10:00 AM CDT/11:00 AM EDT for “How to Do More with Less: Efficiently Manage Your Government’s Finances with Microsoft Dynamics 365.” In this informative webcast, we will explore how Dynamics 365 for Operations (formerly known as Dynamics AX) and Power BI can help you manage strict budgets to prevent overspending while optimizing funds, deliver strong organizational financial reporting, and more.