Leadership means different things to different people and becoming a good leader can take very different paths. Graeme Bolton, Deputy Director-General with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, reflects on what shaped, and continues to shape, his leadership experiences with 8 insights that anyone can adopt.
1. Be politically neutral, but politically astute
In the public sector it’s important to be aware of the narrative and aspirations of the government of the day and how you can work with that to influence the projects and priorities you want to deliver. Finding the story that connects is an important skill to navigating how you operate as a leader at a strategic level.
2. Take positive risks
Don’t be afraid to back yourself. Put your hand up for the jobs others won’t do. You’ll be surprised at the experiences, skills and networks this will give you and what it can ultimately lead to. Also, don’t be afraid to move sideways, or out, to get where you ultimately want to be. The path to a great career is not linear, nor is it finite.
3. Set goals
It sounds obvious doesn’t it, but what is your 3 or 5 year plan? You don’t have to be specific, but setting a goal about where you generally want to see yourself is an important step. What industry will you be in? What will you be doing? As with most things in life, without a destination, it’s hard to know where you’re going.
4. Embrace and seek out diversity
You’ll learn so much from others who are not the same as you. Look for the gems when you’re recruiting and within your team. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and truly learn from people who are different from you.
5. Do something that you love
If you don’t get out of bed each morning energised and wanting to go to work, go and find something that makes you happy. I’m proud of the work that I do and being a public servant who can make a difference. What will your difference be? Without passion and love for what you do it can be a hard road.
6. Be a life-long learner
Every day can be a 'school day', and if you’re not continually investing in learning new things and being open to new skills then you’re limiting yourself. Also, recognise that there are many ways to learn. For me, putting my hand up for expression of interests, taking on jobs that others wouldn’t, saying yes, and connecting to the Public Service Commission for opportunities like the ANZSOG Scholarship and Herding Professional Cats are just some of the ways I have invested in life-long learning.
7. Build and look after your networks
Find a mentor, or 2, to be your sounding board. Find people who are not necessarily in your normal sphere or industry as they will bring a different perspective. Be authentic, nurture your relationships and give without expecting to receive.
8. Pay it forward
Be generous with your time. You will be surprised what this can do for others but also what it can do for you in return.
Graeme was first cab off the rank for the 2019 Executives in conversation series hosted by the Public Service Commission and sponsored by the Chief Executive Leadership Board. To find out about more leadership events like this one subscribe to updates from the Public Service Commission.