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ANZSOG’s Executive Fellows Program prepares senior leaders for fast-changing world

15 March 2022

News and media


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The role of public sector leaders is becoming more complex as we move into a ‘COVID normal’ time and decisions are being made that will shape the world for decades to come. The nature of leadership is changing, with a greater need for vision, the ability to work across boundaries and understanding how their work fits into the bigger picture.

ANZSOG’s Executive Fellows Program (EFP) provides a thought-provoking space for senior public sector leaders to examine their own leadership, and think deeply about the environment they work in and their purpose as leaders.

The first EFP program for 2022 – co-ordinated by ANZSOG Deputy Dean (Teaching and Learning) Professor Catherine Althaus and former CEO of the UK National School of Government Robin Ryde – will be delivered entirely online and will have a strong focus on the social movements that are shaping the current public sector environment, as well as the ramifications of the current war in Ukraine.

The first EFP for 2022 will be divided into three separate modules: Leading Self and Others, Leading the Organisation and Systems leadership, all of which focus on different aspects of leadership in the modern public sector.

The modules encourage self-knowledge and self-mastery as an essential part of good leadership and help participants develop new perspectives on leadership. The program focuses on modes of leadership that move away from ‘command and control’ and emphasise leadership that is done with and through others, and skills that bring out cooperation and collaboration.

Mr Ryde said that ‘the self’ was the instrument of leadership, and that self-knowledge and self-mastery are the tools of good leadership.

“Leaders need to know what their self is capable of, what it does when it is under pressure, what are its blind spots, what depletes and what restores its energy. For example, if you understand you are the kind of leader who instinctively leaps in to solve problems, you may want to think about waiting,” he said

“It is also important to understand what it is that you uniquely bring to leadership and remember that the things leaders do cast a long shadow.”

Professor Althaus said the 2022 program would also focus on building post-pandemic resilience, as well as asking questions about ‘what comes next?’ for the public service as it shifts out of pandemic response mode and into natural disaster response and leading through the fraught global tension associated with the Ukraine conflict and its implications for our region.

She said that the incorporation of social movements into EFP discussions had elicited ‘thoughtful and thought-provoking responses’ from participants.

“It’s a valuable experience to hear from perspectives outside of the usual suspects and to think about the purpose behind social movements and role of the bureaucracy in responding to them. The recent Wellington Beehive protests show that negative energy continues to simmer in our communities. Public service leaders have to know what to do about this,” she said.

The virtual format will allow the 2022 EFP to use a broad range of guest presenters from across the world who will share their expertise and perspectives on leadership with participants.

These include Harvard University Professor Mark Moore, who will discuss the impact of social movements, and Dr Richard Tedeschi who will speak on post-traumatic growth and resilience through crises.

Laura Liswood will lead a session on Partnering Models of Leadership. Ms Liswood is the Washington-based Secretary General, Council of Women World Leaders, an organisation that brings together women presidents, prime ministers, and heads of government from across the world, whose work has explored questions surrounding myths of leadership and lessons learned from leaders.

Phanish Puranam, Professor of Strategy and Organisation Design at the global business school INSEAD, will look at Leading the Organisation. Professor Puranam’s research includes focuses on how organisations work, and could work better, with a focus on non-hierarchical and informal organisations.

Michelle Deshong, who draws her connection to the Kuku Yulanji Nation, and is a former Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute, will lead a session on Indigenous Leadership. Ms Deshong has worked in the government and NGO sectors and has undertaken research in the USA and Canada as part of a Fulbright Scholarship to develop strategies for nation-building, leadership and gender equality.

The online program consists of interactive online sessions, including online sprints and offline reflection – all tailored to fit around the lives of busy public sector executives and give them a chance to build a valuable network of fellow leaders from across jurisdictions.

Participants are challenged to produce their own TED talks – giving them a chance to deepen their understanding of aspects of the program and share aspects of the program that elevated or motivated them.

Professor Althaus said that the TED talks offer an exciting format to show managers of participants what had been learned in the course, and to give organisations a greater understanding of the benefits the EFP had offered.

“They also offer a discrete output for participants to use on their leadership journey,” she said.

“It’s a privilege to see what participants produce – their focus, creativity and learnings are passionate and inspiring. Everyone leaves with a new sense of service and we learn so much together – managers are blown away by the contemporary insights that can be applied straightaway and the meaningful networks that are forged.”

Applications for the 2022 Executive Fellows Program are now open. For more information about the program, click here or email programs_team@anzsog.edu.au

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