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Building resilience and adaptability – Executive Fellows Program 2022 combines virtual and in-person delivery

31 August 2022

News and media


Executive Fellows Program banner with alumni Ro Allen

ANZSOG’s Executive Fellows Program (EFP) combines a space for reflection on leadership with a unique range of guest presenters who give participants insights into the key factors shaping the public sector environment. 

After two years as a fully-online program the 2022 EFP will switch to a blended format with a mix of online sessions and a four-day residential intensive in Sydney. 

The EFP is co-directed by Professor Catherine Althaus, ANZSOG Deputy Dean (Teaching and Learning), and ANZSOG Chair in Public Service Leadership and Reform, University of New South Wales Canberra, and Robin Ryde, former Chief Executive UK National School of Government, and leadership and organisational development expert. 

Professor Althaus said the program was designed for senior leaders and focused on developing the broad range of skills needed to lead high-performing human-centred teams that have the resilience and adaptability to cope with the uncertain post-COVID environment. 

“We’re recognising that leadership is not just a professional activity – it’s something that we need to embody, and it’s holistic – and we are very committed to that in the delivery of this program,” she said. 

Professor Althaus said that public sector leaders had less ‘breathing space’ than ever before and needed a broader range of skills to deal with more complex and uncertain issues, against a background of ‘post-pandemic fatigue’ in public services. 

“Leadership now requires even more mental, physical and emotional energy, so there is a bigger burden on leaders these days and being able to take care of your teams, and yourself, is more critical,” she said. 

“The older skills are still relevant, but it’s more of a toolkit approach, where you need to make judgement calls about which leadership approaches to use. In an uncertain, world it is important for leaders to distinguish between ‘technical leadership’ and ‘adaptive leadership’ when dealing with multiple issues simultaneously.  

“They need to determine the difference between processes that are technical and routinised versus more radical ones. How do you manage entrenched issues that haven’t been moving no matter what you do, issues like climate change that are a mix of adaptive and technical and require you to shift narratives of society and change the motivations and leverage points within the system?  

Learning systems leadership through immersion

The blended 2022 EFP is structured around three online modules: Leading the self and others (including neuro-leadership), Leading an organisation (including adaptive leadership) and Systems leadership, as well as a four-day immersion at the Parramatta Engineering Innovation Hub, a joint UNSW and University of Western Sydney facility, which will look at the future of urban areas and how to reimagining cities into the future.  

Professor Althaus said that the face-to-face immersion will steep participants in systems leadership, encouraging them to futurecast and use geodesign processes to articulate new visions for how cities can be leveraged in emerging new environments. 

“The exciting experiments that Sydney is pursuing with the megalopolis and its ‘six cities’ vision, sets the backdrop for what EFP participants will explore. Participants will be encouraged to think about how to apply lessons from their immersion experience back into their home jurisdictions, including in regional areas,” she said.  

“The future of Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia is ripe with opportunity as we reconceptualise the dynamic nature of our urban centres and possibilities for reimagining the ways communities bond with each other and with our unique landscapes. We’re excited to be partnering with a stellar array of experts in urban design and strategic city planning, to energise our imaginations and supercharge our policy and leadership lenses”.         

The EFP also explores all dimensions of the fluid and uncertain economic, political and social environment that public sector leaders are operating in, as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes. 

This includes analysis of movements pushing for social change – such as Black Lives Matter and the #metoo movement – the importance of diversity and its implications for leadership, the effects of an uncertain geopolitical environment, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and other potential conflicts, as well as growing economic uncertainty and the preparedness of systems to respond. 

Presenters include Laura Liswood, Secretary General of the Council of Women World Leaders, on the inclusive leadership approach and embracing diversity; Indigenous leadership with Casey Millward, from the Secretariat of the National Coalition of Peaks, Michelle Deshong former Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute, and ANZSOG Teaching Fellow Lil Anderson, the Chief Executive of Te Arawhiti/ the Office for Māori Crown Relations. Dr Richard Tedeschi will look at post-traumatic growth and resilience through crises, and David Schilling and Major General Chris Field will offer analysis of the geopolitical environment. 

Professor Althaus said that the 2022 EFP would combine a return to face-to-face teaching with the advantages of virtual delivery. 

 “EFP has still got the ability to tap the best in the world and bring them to our local setting, and the ability to be a bit more experimental with new learning approaches and using technology in a sophisticated way. We bring participants’ managers into the program and let them see what is happening. 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 positives that had come from the public sector’s response to the pandemic – better collaboration and innovation – had not yet been embedded into its daily work, and public sector leaders needed to broaden their focus. 

“I don’t think we have seen significant structural change in those areas. We need more fundamental attention given to the underbelly of the governmental system because it is not yet fit for purpose to deal with the scale of the challenges we face.  

“Aotearoa New Zealand has been experimenting innovatively with cross-agency collaboration and there is much to be learned from their insights. But we know from Tiriti enactment in Aotearoa and Indigenous affairs in Australia that we still have a long way to go to do the community policy delivery stuff well. The underlying colonial design of bureaucracy is still not set up well for that. Unless we are prepared to go the ground zero and design with new incentives and systems and levers we are just tinkering.” 

“Leaders need to think differently about our global challenges and how to respond to the broader issues and trends, because they are having an effect even at the local level. In the past you could afford to be a bit more organisationally focused but you can’t just focus on organisations anymore.” 


The ANZSOG EFP is not just any executive leadership course. The EFP connects you with fellow public sector executives from across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, expanding your professional network and creating an opportunity to learn from the experiences of other jurisdictions. You will benefit from lively, interactive online sessions, including online sprints and offline reflection which can be done at your own pace – all tailored to fit around the lives of busy public sector executives. This delivery of EFP will also feature the return of face-to-face interactions in a highly engaging immersive learning experience in Sydney, Australia.   

The 2022 EFP runs from 29 September – 6 December and applications are now open. For more information visit the EFP page on the ANZSOG website