7 September 2022

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

| Chris Johnson
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Glyn Davis

Glyn Davis: “Leadership must take an abstract goal, a mission, tasks, and then cooperate with others to make it happen.” Photo: University of Melbourne.

Don’t be ruled by your org chart.

That was a key message Glyn Davis delivered to public sector leaders this week when he addressed them for the time since being appointed Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Speaking at an Institute of Public Administration event in Canberra, Professor Davis said the public service needed leaders who involved staff in decisions and the execution of their work.

They shouldn’t be glued to their agency’s hierarchical structures.

“If you have to rely on an organisational chart to demand attention, you’re not much of a leader,” he bluntly said.

“But if regardless of formal lines, you can share ideas and you can empower others, and you can draw on diversity of opinion and experience to achieve a shared goal, then you are exactly the type of leader we need in the Australian Public Service.”

Prof Davis’s remarks follow the recent release of the independent review into APS hierarchies and classifications, which encouraged a more involved and engaged structure for the service.

READ ALSO Public service classifications to remain untouched, for now

As the most senior public servant in the country, Prof Davis rejected the notion of ‘organisation straight-jackets’ that restricted creativity and diversity.

“I know we organise ourselves into neat structures into agencies with clear departmental hierarchies, and apparently all of the flows of accountability. But we all know that’s not our entire lived reality,” he said.

“Leadership requires conversation and negotiation and dealing with flesh and blood. Leadership must take an abstract goal, a mission, tasks and then cooperate with others to make it happen.

“It’s about judgment. It’s about values. It’s about a unique personal style that complements and contributes to a collective effort.”

READ ALSO Classification changes no, but there’s much that will be embraced from APS review

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese selected Prof Davis to head up his department following Labor’s federal election win in May.

The appointment was roundly welcomed at the time, with public servants across the APS eagerly waiting to hear the Secretary’s vision for them.

Region has been informed that Prof Davis will be sharing more of his vision for the public service in future upcoming events.

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