Clemson TurreganoMyths are powerful. Belief drives behavior. CCL’s Clemson Turregano considers how myths about leadership in government stack up to reality – and how they help or hinder effective leadership.

Turregano, a senior faculty member in CCL’s Government Service Sector, has heard numerous assumptions about government leaders — from those within government and from the outside. He decided to take a closer look at five myths of government leadership and draw on a range of research to get at the reality.

In a CCL Webinar, 5 Myths of Government Leadership, Turregano shared what he learned and offers insights into the strengths and key roles played by leaders in public service.

Here’s a glimpse at the five myths:

Myth #1: Government leadership is different from other forms of leadership.

Turregano and CCL colleagues conducted a study to compare leadership scores for leaders in government in comparison with those of other industries. They found that all are within an acceptable range, signifying there is no major difference in leadership of a large organization in industry and a large organization in government. What is different is the context. So the way effective leadership plays out can seem different.

Myth #2: Government workers join to serve.

People working in government are thought to have a greater call to service than those in other industries. They are motivated by mission above all else.

The myth breaks down looking at research from Booz Allen and CCL’s Marian Ruderman. The study found that government workers actually have a lower “service orientation” than their counterparts in the commercial arena. However, there are differences in how leaders use the idea of service to motivate their workers, says Turregano.

Myth #3: Military leaders are the best at forming and leading teams.

Military leaders are understandably revered for their skill at leading teams, leading to the assumption that they are best at leading civilian/military teams in the public sector.

One flaw in that assumption? CCL research shows that the major factor for career derailment among military officers is difficulty forming and leading teams at a senior level.

Myth #4: To be a good manager in government, you just need to follow the rules and process.

A CCL study looked at the strengths and weaknesses of government leaders by analyzing 360-degree data. Technical proficiency was a clear strength, but the ability to lead employees was rated 15th among the 16 competencies needed for leader effectiveness. The problem? Coworkers saw leading employees as the most important competency for government leaders.

Myth #5: Government leaders are poor leaders, which is why they are in government.

Are leaders in government service less effective than leaders in other industries? Evidence suggests otherwise. Civilian leaders in government have done exceptional things — and have important strengths. Notably, they are seen as quick to acquire new knowledge, they are resourceful and they are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve agreed-upon goals. These findings show that government agencies have a group of interpersonally skilled, intelligent and committed leaders — a powerful asset on which to build in any organization.

5 Myths of Government Leadership Webinar

Join CCL’s Clemson Turregano for a Webinar about the myths that could prohibit you from becoming an effective public-sector leader.

In this session you will discover:

  • Commonalities between public service leaders and leaders outside the sector.
  • Why a commitment to innovation and motivation can impact leadership.
  • How and why some government leaders derail and how it can be avoided.

Learn more about The 5 Myths of Government Leadership Webinar.

How Does Executive Leadership Impact Organizational Outcomes? Find out with Leading for Organizational Impact.

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