Performance related pay in the Public Sector…

…should we consider how we reward leaders in the Public Sector?

Agents respond to incentives. We know this much. So I suppose the question we need to ask is “what is the job of a leader in the Public Sector and what does success look like”. Once we know this then we can quickly assess performance against a meaningful measure; sound easy?

As I started this blog entry I realise there are more questions than answers to this seemingly simple issue, there are lots of fantastic and useful definitions about the role of leaders and leadership in general…and specifically in the Private Sector, but are these applicable in the Public Sector?

In fact I wonder if we need or want leaders in the Public Sector? Is there a role for leaders in bureaucratic structures where the direction of travel is set from above (generally not with the views of consumers in mind) and in which the achievement of targets and conformity to the policies of the day (or week or month; you get the gist!) are the ways to climb the ladder to the top.

In case you’re pondering the question of what the difference between leadership and management is, Steven Covey provides a great definition when he says; Leadership is setting the direction of travel and management is about the setting the pace.

If this definition is correct does it mean that because Leaders in the Public Sector can’t define the direction of travel that the quality of Leadership in the Public Sector is forever confined to a zone of mediocrity; a strange mid-point somewhere between cheer-leading and managing…



A scary thought, but unfortunately its a thought for which the evidence is currently overwhelming. How many great motivational books by a Public Sector “Leader” have you read lately?


One comment

  1. Hi Sonia,   It was great seeing you again yesterday.  I hope we will be able to get the firefighters project off the ground.   Below is a newsletter that I subscribe to able that is sometimes humourous but always insightful about the Public Service.  You might be interested in subscribing to it as well.   Cheers Ivan


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