I am privileged to work with a government agency in New Zealand that is doing great things.  I have been working with them for the last four years in various capacities and have seen both the organisation and individuals in key roles grow in confidence and competence over time.  This increase in confidence is visible to others which creates a great environment for service providers to work in knowing that the organisation and its leaders are keen to learn and grow.

They have an ambitious infrastructure programme linked to a vision that the organisation and its people has bought in to.  The various teams in the organisation are aligned to the bigger picture and are united to deliver by driving behaviours and values that resonate with every leader at all levels.

In short, this government organisation is going places figuratively and literally.  They are also highly regarded and respected externally by their suppliers and the industry which is rare for a government organisation.

In reflecting on why this is the case and why they are different to many other government organisations we work with, one factor sticks out more than any other.  It is the age of their senior leaders in key roles.  These roles are filled with young, constructive and decisive leaders who are backed to get the job done. They are decisive, outcome focussed and demonstrate urgency in their approach to delivering an ambitious programme of work through projects.  This is refreshing but also a key success factor for any government organisation.

I wish to stress that I value experience. Experience from senior leaders is invaluable at all levels of a government organisation. The ability to mentor and impart wisdom, lessons learnt and insights so that we do not repeat past mistakes is important.  But this needs to be balanced with ensuring we are injecting government organisations with the energy and enthusiasm needed to reinvigorate the organisation to drive change and improvement.

This point is an Achilles heel of a lot of government organisations.  Because of the old adage of promotions being linked to years of service, a wall or ceiling is created that stifles the young leaders from assuming roles in a government organisation where they can drive and influence outcomes.  Experienced leaders remain in these roles not because they are generally effective but because that is the way things are done around here.  They believe they deserve to stay in their manager roles because they have done the hard yards and many years of service and it is their turn or right.

This is a major weakness around leadership in government organisations and is a stark difference to the private sector.  In the private sector, if you don’t perform or deliver outcomes, you don’t stay in a leadership role.  It is that simple. This not only creates opportunities for new leaders with energy and new ideas to step up but also ensures that leaders tend to continually learn and grow to stay current, relevant and ahead of the pack.  Adaptability, flexibility, agility and a learning mindset are all highly valued attributes of these leaders.

I believe this will become a major point of focus for government organisations.  They need to ask the question: how do we inject the energy and enthusiasm we need into our organisation to cope with the changes happening in our industries through areas such as structural changes, efficiency, technology and globalisation?  There is a major shift that is required and it starts with really analysing current leadership effectiveness and giving leaders with energy, passion and new insights opportunities to assume key roles that will drive these necessary changes.

I take my hat off to my client in New Zealand.  They have recognised this, given roles to those young leaders with ideas, drive and determination to make a difference.  There is no coincidence that New Zealand is a great place to work, visit and be a part of because of it.  All part of a thriving and productive community of leaders!