13 September 2022

Charter of leadership behaviours demands integrity from the public service

| Chris Johnson
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APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott

APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott: the APS has been undergoing a long process of cultural change. Photo: Screenshot.

The Secretaries Board of the Australian Public Service has recently developed a new charter of leadership behaviours, and the APS Commissioner is out and about touting its merits.

Peter Woolcott has made an appearance or two of late, and with more scheduled, talking about the culture of the APS and what is expected from all ranks of its leadership.

Widely regarded as a highly skilled public sector leader himself, the Commissioner’s message is that the public sector demands integrity, impartiality and accountability.

The new charter places a spotlight on those qualities and then some, the Commissioner stressed when talking as part of a discussion panel on public service leadership hosted by the Institute of Public Administration Australia.

“Our APS values continue to set the expectations of impartiality, integrity and accountability for the APS’s organisational culture,” he said.

“The charter takes this further, describing the behaviours required of a modern and dynamic public service culture.

“One that is collaborative, rather than siloed. One that invests in people, respects diversity, and creates an environment where ideas can be contested.”

The remarks complement those made by Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Glyn Davis. Professor Davis told the same audience that good leaders need to loosen their grip on hierarchical structures.

READ ALSO If you rely on an org chart to demand attention, you’re not much of a leader, says PMC boss

Mr Woolcott agreed and pointed out that the APS has been undergoing a long process of cultural change.

“APS leaders need to get better at enabling and empowering others,” he said.

With the charter now launched, the Commissioner said it would be up to each department how they embraced it in their agencies.

“At the end of the day, leadership is an action, not a position,” he said.

“Understand that and you are a fair way down the road.”

Secretary of the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, David Fredericks, was also part of the panel and had an extra message to pass on to public sector leaders.

“Your teams, your staff, your people will always be watching you. Always,” he said.

“They will always be learning from you. They’ll always be taking their cues from you. They’ll always be making judgments about you.

“That can either be a burden, or it can be a wonderful opportunity.”

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Responding to Logically’s comment : what you say may be true, but shouldn’t a requirement to manage the department in a way that delivers practical outcomes be front and centre in this new list of behaviours… rather than just being implied in by reference to another document?

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