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Transforming Government Agencies from Bureaucratic Leadership to Agile Leadership

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

By Iberkis Faltas
September 28, 2018

Government’s Bureaucracy

Government’s bureaucracy is a culture of power that has never been depoliticized. In fact, bureaucracy seems to have lost its professional meaning—for the good of the service and the good of the people—for a need to centralize control and power. Some of the issues affecting the government’s bureaucratic practices are the centralization of power, lack of information sharing between teams and information ownership between departments. Amid many organizational bureaucratic challenges, public administrators are responsible for creating policies, allocating resources, making decisions, solving problems and many other responsibilities toward the public interest.

In relation to bureaucratic decisionmaking, the government’s decisionmaking process is an administrative procedure that can take from a couple of weeks to a couple of years to materialize. In 1976, Researchers Kenneth John Meiser from the Department of Political Science at Rice University, and Lloyd G. Nigro from the Department of Public Administration at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs explained that if two people rationality seek to maximize a given set of values, which is related to attitudes, under identical workplace conditions and provided them with the same information, it is likely that they will arrive at different decisions, based on their perceptions, values, professionalism, ethical values, cultures, mindsets, optimism, negativities and flexibilities. Then, where does the bureaucratic political struggle comes from?

Attitudes, values and social environment are essential variables in leadership bureaucracy. Here is my mix of conceptualization and theory that might help government agencies reduce the combinations of patterns often associated with a bureaucratic way of leading and decisionmaking.

“Path to Agility: Speed & Efficiency, Freedom to Experiment and Communication & Collaboration”

Researchers at GALLUP have defined the conceptualization of agility in the workplace as, “Employees’ capacity to gather and disseminate information about changes in the environment, and responded to information quickly and expediently.” In their most recent study, GALLUP explained three essential agility variables that can help organizations to determine their competitive advantages: Perception, the right mindset and the application of the right tools. The cognitive essentiality of agile organizations is on their ability to quickly respond to the needs of the business by establishing a clear relationship between employees’ perception and the organization’s performance, without compromising organizational standards and embracing employee’s new ideas: Welcoming innovation without the fear of failure, or the loss of power.

To become an agile organization, GALLUP researchers recommended the following conditions: Speed, efficiency, freedom to experiment, communication, collaboration, decentralization, team work, a systems perspective, a reduction matrix structure, customer—internal and external—centric culture, adaptability, trust, fairness, awareness, acceptance, a common mission and stable values. Government agencies must change their bureaucratic ways into a more agile leadership structure. As recent research has shown, in the United States few of the customers are satisfied with the performance of the federal government.

Emotional Intelligence & Agile Organizations

To increase external customers’ satisfaction, first, government organizations must increase internal customers’ motivations to perform. Every public servant in a position of leadership must learn emotional intelligence first to be able to create agile government organizations. Emotional intelligence performance in the workplace refers to a set of abilities, skills and competencies essential to perform in the highest professional level of excellence, regardless of the demands and pressures of the job. Emotional intelligence is especially important for public administrators because of the mandated responsibility owed to the citizens. Also, research has shown the fundamental relationship between individuals’ emotional intelligence and workplace performance, behavior, leadership, flexibility, the acceptance of organizational procedures, commitment to regulatory processes, awareness, communication, collaboration and mindset.

The link between emotional intelligence and agility is shown in the figure below. Emotional intelligence influences a person’s ability to perceive, implement and enforce organizational processes, for the good of the organization and the stability and wellbeing of the employees. Emotional intelligence is a process of awareness, learning, implementation and continues learning that is absolutely necessary to understand and implement the conceptualization of agility. This information is especially important for government organizations seeking to enhance processes. As GALLUP researchers explained, “Ultimately, the quality of your manager will make-or-break whether and organizational culture is agile.” However, emotional intelligence is a learning process. Contemporary professionalism focuses on the well-being of people, as much as on the welfare and stability of the organization, which also result in securing the organization’s capital, growth, and investment. In the workplace, learning emotional intelligence is essential to create an agile organization.


Author: Iberkis Faltas, Ph.D., Public Police & Administration. Specializations: Law & Policy | Management & Leadership. Emotional Intelligence Psychometrician [email protected] | https://www.linkedin.com/in/iberkisfaltas/

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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