Uphold leadership values, institutionalise feedback

Razak School of Government

There seems to be a grey area between the roles of the executive and the administrators that allows interference which affects decision-making processes.

Why can’t we see each other as one instead of being divided based on schemes and grades?

We have many talented people in the civil service but they are under-represented. And the focus of our work is more on the output rather than the outcome.

These are some of the points raised by government officers at the ‘Leadership Values in the Public Sector’ workshop at the Razak School of Government (RSOG) on Oct 2.

The workshop is among RSOG’s many initiatives to analyse existing leadership values in the country especially in the civil service. It is to address the changing nature of value orientation within the bureaucratic environment, allowing participants from the public and private sectors to share their experiences of leading and managing within their cultural dimensions.

This is a timely effort as the public sector needs its own unique indigenous leadership model. Stakeholders have often been searching for leadership solution based on Western theories that often conflicts with our local norms and values.

Participants will, at the end of the sessions, gain new insights of leadership values which will be vital towards creating a new breed of leaders that will be able to motivate the civil service at large.

This focus group is part of the larger initiative to analyse leadership issues at high level in the public sector, which will then be translated into practical solutions in RSOG leadership modules to continue shaping public sector leaders for the country.

Leadership based on local cultural context and norms would give us the unique and competitive edge in realising the country’s agenda to be the ‘Asian Tiger’.

Chief Secretary of the Government Datuk Seri Dr Ismail Bakar was quoted by Twentytwo13 recently as saying the civil service needs good leaders – those who are able to lead and motivate the civil servants and remind them of their loyalty to the public.

Dr Asma Abdullah, an interculturalist who was a facilitator in the Oct 2 session, said in developing good leaders and leadership values, raising issues should not be seen as an attack.

She was joined by several other facilitators during the workshop including RSOG’s Hal Mahera Ahmad and Abdullah Hasan.

“We should institutionalise feedback so that everyone will welcome it. We don’t want to use culture as a threat but as a tool.”

Dr Asma
Dr Asma says we should institutionalise feedback so that everyone will welcome it. Image: RSOG

Dr Asma said she and the other facilitators felt there were “feel good stories” among the civil service that have not been publicised.

“We were amazed to learn the many interesting initiatives carried out by government agencies. For example, one participant related how nations elsewhere look up to our systems and models. Some have even applied it with success.”

“But people still see civil servants as being inefficient and corrupt. That’s sad. We should capture good stories from our government workforce and tell those stories. It’s a good way to brand them.”

Other observations include:

  • Meetings are often stretched as many do not value time. In some offices, meetings become a preaching session. This must stop and government officers should value time like the Japanese and Germans.
  • We tend to have a high tolerance for ambiguity and people are not forthcoming when it comes to addressing issues. Most often, many tend to ignore, hoping people will tolerate the ‘issue or problem’. There is a need for the government workforce to be driven by efficiency as a quick response time is vital.
  • The government should find ways to brand the public sector. It should tell its stories through social media and counter bad press. A good story telling campaign will also help anticipate and pacify public reaction, dismiss fake news and assist in further promoting public campaigns.

Dr Asma added: “It’s always easy to see the tip of the iceberg but we need to also see what lies beneath. We must address the elephant in the room.

“Only then can we move forward and ensure a productive workforce in the government.”

RSOG, a distinctive leadership development institution, was established on July 30, 2010 to propel the advancement of the country’s senior public sector leaders. RSOG designs forward-thinking and practical leadership development programmes, thus accelerating competencies and capabilities of senior leaders to remain resilient, effective and inspired.

This article is brought to you by Razak School of Government.