Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

The Globally Minded Public Administrator

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Elaine Ahumada
June 8, 2023

Summer 2023 will experience and exceed the highest levels of air travel before the pandemic. With the desire for travel at an all-time high, public-sector employees may be looking forward to vacationing around the globe. As one prepares for their leisurely destination, one is encouraged to travel with a globally minded disposition. While airport transfers, TSA and delayed flights may cause frustrations, these experiences can serve as teachable and reflective moments for all public practitioners.

Being globally minded opens one’s mind to the world’s challenges while increasing self-awareness, empathy and resilience. The ability to critically analyze and ponder potential alternatives to various situational obstacles can strengthen managerial expertise. Instead of merely being overwhelmed, critical and irritated, take the time to examine, recognize and entertain how cultural, social, economic and political influences impact individual experiences and shape outcomes. Placing these perspectives in an international context can assist public administrators in honing their skills to increase organizational effectiveness and sustainability.

The evolving political, social and economic climate around the world affects the respective administrator’s organizational daily life. As bureaucrats envision how to implement policy, traveling to foreign countries can improve cultural competency and provide expanded opportunities to identify viable alternatives to policy problems. For example, witnessing how other countries approach homeless services, animal control and food insecurity can initiate a broader perspective for initiating innovative solutions in one’s home country.

Possessing a global mindset allows for the exploration of self-awareness. Recognizing inherent biases, assessing personal comfort levels while encountering language barriers and gauging individual willingness to take risks can translate into practical and creative approaches to policy implementation. Traveling can foster empathy. Researcher Teresa Wiseman states that empathy removes judgment. A person can recognize the emotions in others and better understand another person. As public organizations become less homogenous, empathy is undoubtedly an attribute to being a more competent leader.

Traveling tests personal resilience as delayed flights, missed connections and unanticipated accommodations or lack thereof compromise itineraries. In these instances, the test of practical problem-solving skills and self-control provides an excellent platform for self-reflection. A global mindset inherently involves being capable of anticipating potential setbacks that require proactive approaches to rectifying and ameliorating challenges.

Identity politics, political tensions, economic disparities, environmental concerns, health threats and violent extremism are daily occurrences on the planet. These events are wreaking havoc on the collective good of humanity. Acknowledging core human values reflected around the globe among all people who inhabit the earth is a good start. However, consensus on the specific human values that all should ascribe to is consistently up for discussion. Despite this, some rendition of “accountability” is on the list. It is harder to see and disregard gross inequities in developing nations and return home with little to no thoughtful acceptance of the commonalities shared regarding the human condition of vulnerability. A globally minded administrator must recognize raising this awareness in self. These personal accounts of consciousness lay the groundwork for further developing a reflective practitioner. Globally-minded administrators relish the good fortune of travel and take advantage of engaging with communities different from their own. Challenging narrow-mindedness, the proclivity to embrace differences and the unknown becomes the preferred disposition.

It is easy to detach and restrict thinking when remaining on a hamster wheel of monotony in day-to-day work. Alternatively, travel allows for exploration and incites divergent thinking within the mind. Consider fostering global strategic thinking by traveling to an international public administration conference. Meeting practitioners from other continents who also face resource and organizational challenges will provide renewed perspective on innovative practices and problem-solving skills. Acknowledging how other countries manage transportation, technology, safety, health and environmental issues can be the food for creative thought in policy programs and solutions.

The return home from travels can be invigorating and transforming for a globally-minded public administrator. Understanding cultural nuances and appreciating the norms and customs of those who do not identify with the same constructs of a cultural bubble can alter the morale and productivity of any department. Global-mindedness allows us to see employees from a different viewpoint and provides more objectivity. Organizations and communities continue to evolve to become more diverse and multicultural. Professional administrators cannot afford to remain in a silo of cultural ignorance. The education that global travel affords can pay dividends in fostering collaborative work environments and maintaining healthy organizations.

Brush off the passport, pack a bag and be adventurous! Immerse in the local culture. Investigate, inquire and observe cultural norms, behaviors and values. The ticket to another place is the ticket to solving a plethora of old problems and viewing these problems in new ways.

Author: Elaine Ahumada, DPA – Dr. Elaine Ahumada has been teaching Public Administration and Public Policy courses over the past twenty years. She is the Director of the Doctoral Program in Public Administration at California Baptist University. She has extensive practitioner experience in non-profit consulting and serving on boards for regional non-profits in Southern California. [email protected]

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *