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The American Review of Public Administration-2006-Marsh-382-4

The American Review of Public Administration-2006-Marsh-382-4

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The American Review of Public Administration http://arp.sagepub.


Leadership and Leading: Leadership Challenges
Marcia Marsh The American Review of Public Administration 2006 36: 382 DOI: 10.1177/0275074006293632 The online version of this article can be found at: http://arp.sagepub.com/content/36/4/382.citation

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And Leaders Respond

Leadership and Leading: Leadership Challenges
DOI: 10.1177/0275074006293632

The American Review of Public Administration Volume 36 Number 4 December 2006 382-391 © 2006 Sage Publications http://arp.sagepub.com hosted at http://online.sagepub.com

The number one challenge for public, not-for-profit, and for-profit organizations is leading beyond boundaries. I cannot think of a single organization I have touched in the past two decades that owns even a majority of the assets—capital, intellectual, or human—that it must lead in order to be successful. We are totally reliant on the cooperation and collaboration of partners, suppliers, contractors, governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and communities in meeting our goals. Truly excellent organizations and leaders excel in engaging all the resources required for success, but these organizations are few and far between. I can think of no public sector organization that can go it alone or simply collaborate within government. At the Department of Defense (DOD), the number of partners involved in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq extends well beyond other governments to contractors, other agencies, NGOs, local communities, and more. At other agencies, Hurricane Katrina provided a most visceral example of this challenge of leading across boundaries, but examples exist everyday in cleaning up Manhattan project sites, creating effective landuse partnerships, delivering the new Medicare drug prescription benefits, improving our schools, and so on. We need to broadly understand partnerships and adapt our leadership to constantly build and reinforce coalitions if we are to be successful leaders. During my time at the Partnership for Public Service, I participated in a number of studies and panels focusing on leadership of the “blended workforce.” The conversation almost always devolved into a discussion of how evil contracting out is versus how we leverage all the assets federal leaders touch. At forums about partnerships and collaboration, I heard a great deal of cynicism about working with the private sector or entrusting real responsibility to state and local entities. We must develop leaders throughout these organizations who create solutions across sectors and leverage our precious dollars and resources effectively in solving highly complex problems. Nowhere is this challenge more evident than in not for-profit organizations. The biggest rap against not-for-profit management is the lack of accountability for real and sustainable results. The refrain you will hear in trying to set goals in this sector is “We don’t have control over . . .” or “We can only do so much.” I heard this from dozens of otherwise talented leaders, and my response was always, “Then why exist?” Funders and donors are extremely conscious of this leadership and accountability gap. Money is shifting to those leaders who demonstrate competency in producing results through highly innovative and effective collaborations or new ventures. I am fortunate to work for a not-for-profit where leaders believe that they can and should be accountable for significant results outside their direct control and where they have the competencies to build and manage coalitions. I moved to the World Wildlife Fund for two reasons—mission and global business and political savvy. Through highly innovative projects and leadership, we are achieving results that not only save habitats and communities but change global markets and policies to support, expand, and sustain those results.
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Invited Symposium


What Talents and Competencies are Required to Meet This Challenge?
It’s back to the future in this case. We need to produce generations of explorers and renaissance leaders—people who can dream big dreams and produce them. This time our explorers need not only a broad education and worldview but hands-on knowledge of global technologies and communications tools. If I were hiring leaders for critical public sector challenges, I would look for competencies above and beyond the Executive Core Competencies for the Senior Executive Service. I would want people with a track record of:
• Consistently creating wins across communities—Leaders who have the ability to put themselves in others’ shoes and find ways to produce solutions that create mutual success. People who have either been employed or have effectively worked across countries, sectors, and organizations. Diplomats, negotiators, deal makers. In the Strength Finders parlance—people who “woo.” This is not to suggest anything other than strong leaders who demand excellence, but it does suggest leaders who create excellence through shared accountability and recognition or reward. My first stop for such experience would be the diplomats and negotiators in uniform in Iraq who, despite horrific conditions and challenges, are managing their own wins in communities there. Whatever your view of the war, the extraordinary expertise that many of our junior military officers and enlisted personnel have gained there should be shared across government and other sectors. • Extreme resourcefulness—Leaders who are creative day in and day out in leveraging resources, looking for opportunities to multiply their impact through the efforts of others and unusual partnerships or solutions. The Department of Interior has exceptional examples of such leaders—most are long-time career civil servants who have leveraged their assets to create incredible results. The Department of Interior has used partnerships with volunteers, foundations, corporations, and communities to extend the reach of a shrinking employee base. They have a Partnership and Collaboration Team that is spreading that expertise across the country and creating “bureaucracy busting” tool kits that enable new leaders inside and outside government. • Campaign-style communications savvy—Leaders who understand and have used multiple methods and channels to successfully pull information in and push it out. I would look for how leaders adapted their behavior, message, and perhaps strategies on the basis of those efforts, how they disseminated information, found ways to listen across the organization, and adapted both strategy and messages accordingly. Communications is key to leading across a distributed workforce and stakeholder community. • Self-awareness and humility—In an environment where you are leading resources well beyond your reach, you simply cannot know it all. Leaders who embrace this and are comfortable with their own limitations ask the right questions, involve the right people, and establish the right atmosphere for success. • Adaptability—Understanding that leaders cannot know it all, the best of the best can admit they have issues or problems and address them quickly and decisively. I want people who have taken risks, stumbled, and found ways to make the best of those learnings—either with a more creative solution to that problem or a life lesson that has influenced their leadership going forward. • A voracious appetite for continued learning and adventure—The greatest leaders who I have encountered are constantly looking for new trends, markets, ideas, and solutions. They are seeking new tools and techniques they can leverage in their difficult worlds. They have

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The American Review of Public Administration

multiple passions that extend beyond and yet compliment their professional lives. Lovers of Shakespeare, history, writing, adventure traveling, language, culture, technology, science, and so on. Advocates for many causes outside their professional lives. They feed their passions and use that information to stretch their thinking. They instill that same continued intellectual curiosity and commitment in others and inspire people to continue to grow.

How Can We Develop Leaders With These Attributes?
For federal agencies, the answer has to come through education and disproportionate doses of rotations and assignments. The Corporate Leadership Council recently completed a study of thousands of leaders across sectors. When asked about the experiences that contributed most to leadership development, the greatest value was placed on stretch assignments, personal development plans, and mentoring. When I think about my own development, the greatest growth spurts occurred when I was personally responsible for a major endeavor and fully accountable for results that seemed outside my reach. I learned more on late nights working with teams on seemingly insurmountable problems (simultaneously worrying about the imminent demise of my career) than I did from any other training opportunity. The military successfully combines education with assignments and application, but how can we create the same combination of development activities outside the military ranks? We have to incorporate the right blend of just-in-time learning with immediate application. That requires a robust and accessible curriculum with succession and assignment planning. This combination is nonexistent in most federal agencies. Beyond succession planning, the curriculum we offer must also expand. How do we expose people throughout their careers to learning about cultures, market forces, technology and innovation, global politics, trends, and so on? DOD is tackling this issue head on. Are other federal agencies? What are the continuing education requirements for our managers and leaders? Early training and exposure to some of the soft-skill competencies I mentioned above are also important. Are we training our aspiring public sector leaders in how to manage world-class communication campaigns? Are they learning about engaging and managing broad stakeholder communities? Do their courses include practical experience in setting and measuring mutual goals or managing performance-based ventures? These are some of the questions we must answer to create leaders capable of leading beyond boundaries. Marcia Marsh World Wildlife Fund, Washington, D.C.
Marcia Marsh, senior vice president of operations for the World Wildlife Fund, has had an extensive career that has included leadership and consultancy across public and private sectors with such organizations as the Partnership for Public Service and Watson Wyatt Worldwide.


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