Public Sector Leadership


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Who should attend

  • People who work in or with public service or public policy organizations
  • Leaders, aspiring leaders, and staff who work in organizations involved in public affairs or engaged with government at any level
  • People who work in or with non-profits, education institutions, or NGOs
  • People who work in or with law enforcement organizations

About the course

There are a multitude of strategies, books, and resources that are meant to help you improve your leadership skills. But if you work in the public sector, do these strategies apply to you? What is different about leading in a public organization?

In this certificate program, Seth Harris, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor, will help you explore these questions. You will assess your own leadership skills as well as examine your own organization to determine its unique characteristics. You will also examine your employees and teams to better understand what motivates them to work in the public sector.

With a better understanding of both your organization and your people, you’ll have the opportunity to use several leadership models and goal-setting approaches that can help you determine which leadership strategies and behaviors will be most effective in your organization.


Leadership Skills and Traits in Public Organizations

Are leaders born, or can they be made? In this course, we'll tackle this classic leadership conundrum, and at its conclusion, you will have developed your own perspective on what makes a leader successful. Using his experience as the former Deputy Secretary of Labor and background as a Cornell Visiting Professor, Professor Seth Harris will explore the skills and traits that make leaders effective in today's public-sector organizations.

With real-world examples combined with scholarly research, you will analyze and reflect on both the personal characteristics and the skills and competencies that define great leadership. You will have the opportunity to assess yourself and other leaders on these critical skills and traits using leadership assessment tools. Because this course focuses on public leadership, Professor Harris will walk you through the key differences between public and private organizations to help you develop a more thorough understanding of the characteristics of your public organization. With this information, you will be able to determine your leadership readiness and create a plan for the areas you want to develop to become a successful leader within your organization.

Assessing Your Public Sector Organization

Are public organizations different from private sector organizations? Do they require different sets of leadership skills or traits? In this course, Professor Seth Harris will provide you with a framework that you can use to better understand your organization. With this understanding, you will be well positioned to determine how you can be a more effective leader in your organization.

There are many elements that affect every organization and dictate the type of leadership skills needed to thrive. You will learn about societal factors that affect all organizations, such as technology, demographics, and cultural conditions, as well as how organizations and leadership are affected by these factors in areas like mission, resource availability, and process. Additionally, public organizations have certain unique external factors that private sector organizations don’t need to consider. These systems and structures, public expectations, and external influencers, which can have an enormous impact of the role of the public sector leader.

Lastly, you will explore the specific internal characteristics of public organizations, including factors such as the goods or service it provides and the types of employees who are attracted to public sector organizations.

At the conclusion of the course, you will have a detailed picture of your own public organization and how its defining characteristics influence the leadership skills and traits required for success.

Motivating Public Sector Employees

Part of being a great leader is understanding why your employees want to work in a public sector organization, how you can motivate them individually and as a group, and what incentives and tools are available to do so. In this course, you will explore your own reasons for working in a public organization as well as the motivations of your colleagues using a well-tested survey tool. You will also determine what types of monetary and non-monetary incentives are available to you within your organization so that you can match them to the motivations of the organization’s employees.

Professor Harris will also explore how certain leadership behaviors can be a strong motivational force. Many employees will only be motivated by a leader when the leader’s style and behaviors meet the employee’s needs and those of the organization. In this course, you will explore some of these leadership styles, assess the behaviors of leaders in your organization, and determine which leadership traits are compatible with which public service motivations.

Public Sector Leadership Strategies

In this course, Secretary Harris will guide you through several leadership models that you can use to identify the most effective leadership strategies for you, your employees, and your organization. You will perform a thorough assessment of the employees to determine their overall level of competence and commitment to the organization’s goals. Focusing on the organization, you will examine the degree to which tasks are highly structured, your level of positional power, and the state of the relationship between employees and leaders.

Using your assessment of both your employees and your organization, you will determine which leadership behaviors will be most effective in influencing and motivating your staff to perform at a high level and meet the organization’s goals. You will also determine which leadership behaviors will be most effective in overcoming obstacles to achieving critical team and organizational goals.

At the end of this course, you will leave with a set of leadership strategies that are best suited to your organization and its employees.

Goal Setting in Public Sector Organizations

We all know that setting goals is critical to achieving success in any endeavor. But in order to do this effectively, you need an approach that works. In this course, Professor Harris guides you through the performance pyramid, a system you can use to set challenging goals and then develop operating plans and accountability tools that will enable you to measure and monitor your organization’s progress toward those goals.

Mastering a measurable performance framework, navigating challenges, and utilizing goal-setting theory will help galvanize your employees around a specific vision and optimize engagement and accountability.

Leading Public Sector Teams to Success

In any organization, teams can be an effective way to organize employees, meet critical objectives and move the organization forward. But how do you lead teams in public organizations? Do you need to adjust your approach because of the limits or constraints present in public organizations?

In this course, Professor Harris will present you with proven characteristics of successful teams and help you to determine how your teams measure up. You will examine a model of team leadership that will help you determine when you should intervene and when you should step back and let your team find its way. You will also explore different possible interventions and determine the right circumstances to employ each one. Finally, Professor Harris will discuss the challenges of managing team conflict and provide you with strategies and examples that will enable you to successfully navigate the inevitable issues that occur when groups of people work together.

Key course takeaways

  • Assess the societal, external, and internal characteristics of your public organization
  • Determine which skills and traits will help you lead your organization
  • Set challenging goals for your organization based on its vision, mission, and strategy
  • Measure and monitor your organization’s performance toward achieving its goals using appropriate planning and management tools
  • Determine which leadership behaviors can help remove obstacles so employees can meet organizational goals
  • Select the leadership strategies that will be most effective in your organization and motivate employees to high performance
  • Navigate the limits and constraints of team leadership inherent in public organizations

What you'll earn

  • Public Sector Leadership Certificate from Cornell Institute for Public Affairs
  • 60 Professional Development Hours (6 CEUs)


Seth Harris

Seth D. Harris is an attorney in Washington, D.C. and a Visiting Professor at Cornell University’s Institute for Public Affairs. Building on almost seven years of service in the Clinton Administration, he was Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor (and a member of President Obama’s Cabinet) and Deputy U...

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Public Sector Leadership at eCornell

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Coursalytics is an independent platform to find, compare, and book executive courses. Coursalytics is not endorsed by, sponsored by, or otherwise affiliated with any business school or university.

Full disclaimer.

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