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“I got insights into the leadership others needed from me” – Paul James’s EFP experience

2 August 2022

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Image of ANZSOG Executive Fellows Program alum, Paul James

Paul James’s career has taken him across multiple leadership roles in the Aotearoa New Zealand public service, and he says that doing ANZSOG’s Executive Fellows Program (EFP) rekindled his inspiration for public sector work and gave him a new understanding of leadership. 

Mr James, Secretary for Internal Affairs and Chief Executive for Te Tari Taiwhenua, Department of Internal Affairs, said that as a senior leader, he had benefited from the EFP’s focus on leading yourself, and being aware of your role as a leader. 

“When I did the EFP I got a clear insight into the leadership that others needed from me, not just about getting things done but support for them as part of the organisation,” he said. 

“I learned how I could bring them with me and create and describe a future and direction for the organisation that they could all believe in. I had to be a lot clearer and more deliberate in providing that direction for the organisation,” he said. 

He said that the EFP had helped him to think more deeply about how he led and a greater understanding of the environment senior leaders were operating in. 

“I got great content that I’ve used ever since, but what I really got was time away from a busy role and the chance to think about what I was doing. I gained a whole lot of insights into myself as a leader, and tools for myself as a leader too,” he said. 

“In particular, there were things I’d done intuitively and things I’d learnt to do by doing, and the EFP gave me some frameworks, some richer lenses and a deeper appreciation of the things that really mattered in the leadership role I was playing,” he said. 

Mr James said he had stayed in the public sector because it had allowed him to deal with challenging issues, do work that mattered and work with great colleagues. He said that while he did not believe the work of the public sector had got more difficult, public expectations were rising and evolving and public servants needed to meet that challenge. 

He said that one of the things he took from the EFP, was the importance of looking for ‘disconfirming data’ – the things that don’t fit your prejudices and your biases – but that can help you understand risks and make better decisions. 

As a participant in four ANZSOG programs or courses, he says he values their quality and the fact they are designed primarily for the public sector. 

“They are built around the public service and, while we can learn a lot from the private sector, the public sector is different. Having programs that are bespoke for the public sector, connect the public sector, and operate in the public sector context is hugely valuable, and that ability to connect with other public sector leaders is a critical part of the value that ANZSOG offers.”