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The New Government Leader: Mobilizing Agile Public Leadership in Disruptive Times


Traditional command-and-control leadership styles may no longer be adequate for the challenges that government faces today. Effective government leaders see the need for new skills to meet increased expectations for citizen interaction and to cope with an increasingly complex operating environment.

 Six new behaviors will define tomorrow’s successful government leader:            

  1. Agile integration recognizes the complexities and interdependencies of public, private, and nonprofit missions. Leaders adept at agile integration connect people, information, and resources, and work with other organizations and private citizens to solve complex problems that defy siloed approaches.
  2. Quiet transparency involves the willingness to question and adapt without having all the answers, and to hold open, consistent exchanges with a variety of audiences through various media. A leader’s ability to be quietly transparent sets the stage for trust and engagement with teams and constituents.
  3. Digital aikido is the use of digital media to gauge attitudes, build influence, and motivate action through social networks—to shape and build energy on these platforms rather than resist it. Leaders can use digital aikido to assess the mood, opinions, and motivations of people within online social systems, and tailor their moves accordingly.
  4.  Horizon scanning guides strategic decision making by analyzing patterns across disciplines and environments and testing assumptions about current and future trends. Leaders who are good at horizon scanning develop questions tied to strategic priorities and use multiple, sometimes contradictory, hypotheses to test those questions.
  5. Rapid prototyping facilitates learning through experimentation and the launch of multiple prototypes in small, controlled tests. Government leaders adept at rapid prototyping may generate several potential solutions and launch them all in small pilots, to see which ones work and which successful aspects can be combined.
  6. Rebel rousing involves seeking out and encouraging individuals who question the status quo, creating a safe environment for contrarian thinking and challenges to established practice, and setting a clear purpose while allowing for flexibility in how the purpose is achieved. Listening to “good rebels” can be a safe way to reveal problems and potential obstacles, decreasing the likelihood that leaders will be blindsid ed by dissenters or “bad rebels.”

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