Leadership in the public sector has a vital role in a country’s progress. Compared to the private sector, leaders in public institutions face far greater challenges in fulfilling their multi-stakeholders obligations. This context often requires a clear purpose and different sets of leadership competencies.

30 Master of Business Administration (MBA) students which majority consist of state government officers had the opportunity to learn about this issue during the TalentTalks session held on 22nd August 2020 via Zoom application.

The participants represent upper-level management group serving in various Negeri Sembilan state agencies (SUKNS) and other government institutions who enrolled in Azman Hashim International Business School’s (AHIBS) offshore MBA program.

As part of their MBA curriculum, they undertake Leading Talents in Organisation (LTO), a compulsory course that provides them with the competencies to manage self and others through talent management and leadership interventions.

Embedded into the LTO course is the TalentTalks series that bring in external experts as guest speakers to share real practices in the industry or other countries. For this round, TalentTalks featured an expert from the University of Manchester to share leadership considerations and public policy cases from the United Kingdom.

Dr. Christopher Rees is a Reader in Human Resources and Organisational Change at the Global Development Institute (GDI), University of Manchester, UK. He is a Chartered Psychologist and a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Prior to commencing full-time academic work, Dr. Rees held senior positions in the public and financial services sectors in the UK. He also serves as the Standing Chair of the annual EISAM colloquium on Organisational Change and Development and familiar in human resources and public policy research in other countries, including Malaysia.

Tailoring to the students’ public service background, the talk explored issues concerning public sector purpose, stakeholders involvement, governance and accountability, decision making, and leadership values. Three public policy cases in the UK were presented as an illustration. The controversial nature of cases set forth an interactive discussion on leadership considerations and contextual relevance among the participants.

The participants have enjoyed and learned a great deal from the session. Some of their feedback is summarised below:

The three case studies in UK give me the next manifest , what kind of knowledge, skills, talent and competencies are required from a leader to bring a successful organisational change. It is also important to know, what is the relation of successful organisational change to the leadership competencies. (Nur Hafzan, Negeri Sembilan Information Department)

Since Malaysia inherited almost the same kind of parliamentary and public administration systems, I could relate to what Dr. Chris Rees shared with us for issues of leadership that we have in our office.(Muzalifah, Jempol District and Land Office)

I still can’t move on from the first and second cases till now. It’s just shocking….there is no way in knowing on how our decision will truly affect the world. We just have to gather as many information as possible and decide the best while preparing for the worst. (Muhd Jauzi, N. Sembilan Chief Minister Office)

… doesn’t matter Malaysia or UK, the challenges that been faced by public sectors almost the same. Our ultimate goal as a leader must be right. (Munirah, Seremban District and Land Office)

The issues raised in the discussion about the case study point to more than simply the compounded effects of administrative errors and poor decision-making in the most complex Government department. It also brought to the fore some important issues about the management and operation of the Civil Service. (Nur Hafizah, Human Resource Division, SUKNS)

We as a public servant need to increase the level skills, knowledge and style of leadership to solve the problem in the future. I’m really impressed with your cases because it also reflects the people’s needs in UK and the public sector’s method to solve the issues in UK. Thanks to AHIBS which always make the effort to link students to the experts so that learning is practical. (Nurizuan, National Security Council (NSC) Negeri Sembilan)

The cases presented are an eye-opening in which leaders should gain ample information as well as consultation with the relevant parties before jumping into decisions. A flawed decision can give an impact on the whole systems, people and government itself. (Khairy, Port Dickson District and Land Office)

The cases discussed are very relevant with the current issues faced by my department right now and has provided me with good insight and tool on how to approach an issue and provide the best input to my superior. (Azriza, Immigration Department of Malaysia).

The lecture by Dr. Christopher Rees was very insightful. …three unique examples which really touch the leadership of government. .. From my experience, there are similarities or examples similar to what happened in Malaysia. This kind of lecture or knowledge discussion should be shared to open up ideas or insights on how to pursue more proactive government leadership and how to strategise a better public-government cooperation. (Azuwan, State Health Department, N. Sembilan)

TalentTalks aims to provide a platform to strengthen quality business and management education at AHIBS and promote industry-academic interactions in the classroom. In the past, the series has featured guest speakers from McDonald’s Malaysia, Johor State Healthcare Department, and Johor Port to explore leadership and talent management topics tailored to particular student cohorts.