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Launch of the Senior Executive Leadership Capability Framework

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The Hon. Dr David Kem p MP

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service



Canberra, 19 May 1999


Public Service Commissioner, Helen Williams, Departmental Secretaries and other Agency Heads, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am delighted to be with you today to introduce an initiative that I believe will allow us to build on the momentum we have already achieved in moving towards true excellence in the public service. I would like to thank you particularly Helen and all the members of the Public Service and Merit Protection Commission for the work that has gone into the development of this initiative. It has

been a very consultative process. I believe that what has come out of it is an initiative that truly does reflect the views and the aspirations of many in the public service that will lead to a much more satisfying and productive work environment.

When I spoke to you in August last year, I summarised the Government’s new legislative and administrative framework for the Australian Public Service and commended the APS for the way it had responded to the challenges that the Government’s reforms had set. I also argued that committed, robust leadership was crucial to making the most of this new framework, and set out the Government’s agenda to revitalise leadership planning and development in the APS.

The initiative that I am launching today, the Senior Executive Leadership Capability Framework, comes in response to that agenda. It is directly relevant to encouraging the strong, strategic leadership that is so important to the management of change and to achieving results.

The Challenges for Australia and the APS

The 1990s have seeji a growing awareness of the need for increasing the competitiveness of business and societies in the global marketplace. Global competition does not just affect trade; it also demands attention to the quality of governance and the effectiveness of public sectors. Indeed, global competition is perhaps greatest in the areas of knowledge and expertise, the know-how that is

the essential underpinning of high performance.


The reform of public administration is a central part of the Government’s micro-economic reform agenda. In an age when we must compete successfully to survive, it is the rigidity arising from excessive prescription and inefficiency that undermines our long-term security and prosperity as a nation. The greatest ongoing security our nation has comes from our excellence and adaptability and responsiveness to change.

One of the first priorities of the Government when it came to office in 1996 was to introduce reforms in three areas crucial to the competitiveness of the public sector: financial management, workplace relations and public service employment.

Achievements in all three areas have been very significant. The Public Service Bill was recently reintroduced into Parliament, and while there will be considerable debate on the Bill which contains key provisions to bring about further progress, administrative measures have already implemented many of its directions. The Government remains committed to its goal of ongoing reform to provide the conditions necessary for public service organisations to perform to their maximum potential.

The Response of the APS -

The direction of the Government’s reforms has now been clearly set out and I would like again to acknowledge the very real and significant achievements of the Australian Public Service in pursuing change and responding to the challenges offered by the new environment. Indeed the very degree and speed of that responsiveness is a clear demonstration of the quality of the Public Service and of its professionalism.

There are a number of impressive examples of achievements by the Public Service in achieving change. Customer service reforms have been instituted through the introduction of Service Charters, which a number of agencies now have in place. Centrelink, an initiative of this Government, is a public service agency which is customer focussed, providing an integrated range of services to customers, and has clearly achieved very significant change over a relatively short period.

The creation of the Job Network, which saw the former Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs undertake the largest competitive tendering exercise of its kind in Australia, is another example of real achievement. The Job Network represents the most significant reorganisation of employment services delivery arrangements in 50 years.

The current budget and the fiscal turnaround the Government has been able to achieve is due in no small measure to the professionalism and dedication which you bring to your work.

Similarly, the structural reforms, which we have introduced to improve Australia’s microeconomic performance, have been a major challenge for the APS. The introduction of new budgeting arrangements, the effective use of new workplace relations arrangements to develop greater

flexibility and focus on the outcomes to be achieved, have improved the performance of agencies and therefore of the government.

This Government sets challenging targets for the APS. Your response to those has demonstrated both skill and expertise and I want to emphasise today just how much the Government values the real and worthwhile achievements we have accomplished together and that we will achieve together in the future.


Leadership and Performance

Committed, strategic leadership is essential to maximise the potential flowing from this context of responsiveness and achievement.

The demands on leaders in the current environment of rapid change and of ongoing search for performance improvement are greater than ever before, requiring more than just focus, fiscal discipline and a commitment to continuous improvement. Achieving high performance leadership in this new environment requires the establishment of a shared vision and sense of purpose, the translation of that vision into action, and gaining staff commitment and ownership.

High performance leadership is a basic requirement if we are to ensure that Australia’s public sector is one of its global strengths. Strengthening the identification and development of leaders is therefore critical if the Australian Public Service is to have the kind of leadership necessary to meet the demands of the future.

Developing the Leadership Framework

The Government’s recognition of the need to strengthen and accelerate the development of our future leaders led me to ask the Public Service Commissioner, in collaboration with Agency Heads, to embark on a major upgrading of leadership development and planning in the Public Service. As a first step, this project involved the identification of the behaviours which Public Service leaders would need in the new environment to guide their organisations towards high performance.

In designing the project, it was recognised that the work would only succeed if it reflected the real experiences and needs of agencies. To be successful it had to provide agencies with the information and tools that would enable them to be future focussed and to make informed choices relevant to the needs of their particular businesses and of the Service as a whole.

Key Features of the Framework

The result of that process is the Senior Executive Leadership Capability Framework, which I am launching today. The Framework sets out comprehensively, and in contemporary terms, the behaviours that characterize high performance in Public Service leadership roles, and it does so in a

way that can be applied directly to all areas of planning and development for this group. It identifies the core capabilities required by high performing Senior Executives.

It represents a major new direction-for a number of reasons. Until now, SES appointments and promotions have been based on Senior Executive Selection Criteria which have served us well, particularly in helping to achieve a focus on the management role of APS Senior Executives.

What we have been lacking, however, is a comprehensive statement of leadership requirements that could provide an overall framework to guide other areas of planning such as an integrated approach to development, performance assessment and management, and succession planning for the Senior Executive Service.

The existing SenioFExecutive Selection Criteria are now almost ten years old and it is not surprising that they no longer reflect all of the challenges that are facing the Australian Public Service.


Perhaps most importantly, the existing criteria do not reflect the APS Values, which are now the guiding principles for the APS and in particular, the Senior Executive Service as its leaders. In short, they no longer give sufficient guidance for people, for you, on how to meet those challenges.

The Strengths of the Framework

The Senior Executive Leadership Capability Framework has several key strengths as a tool for development and planning in relation to our Senior Executives. First, it is performance-based. It identifies the behaviours which enable Senior Executives to achieve and lead others to high performance. Second, it is uniquely Australian and unique to the Australian Public Service. While the notion of having a framework of capabilities is a feature of high performing organisations in many industries, both in Australia and internationally, this Framework is not just taken from a model developed elsewhere - it is based directly on the expectations for, and challenges placed on, the Public Service here in Australia. The Framework will enable congruence between all the things which agencies and the APS as a whole do to select, develop and plan for its Senior Executive requirements.

The Senior Executive Leadership Capability Framework is accessible; it is a one-page statement of requirements now and into the future. It identifies five broad messages about the behaviours of high performing leaders which will become the core criteria for the appointment of Senior Executives. Each criterion captures and summarises a group of inter-related capabilities which

provide the detail of the behaviours which make up each of the broad level messages.

Importantly, the behavioural nature of the capabilities provides a solid foundation for their practical application. They focus on what people actually do and how they behave. They offer a clear and integrated framework against which performance can be described and evaluated.

I would like briefly to take you through the key concepts of each of the five criteria included in the Senior Executive Leadership Capability Framework.

1. To meet the first criterion, Shaping Strategic Thinking. Senior Executives must help to inspire the sense of purpose and direction necessary to shape the organisation’s vision and goals, and to translate them into practical terms for others so that there is a shared understanding of what has to be achieved.

As the public interest policy adviser to government, Public Service leaders need high level capability to think through problems from various angles, to question traditional assumptions and practices, to develop innovative solutions, and to bring these together with judgement and strategic focus. "Governments benefit to the extent that you are always searching for the best, most creative solutions, and are taking into account global developments as well as the parameters of the Australian environment.

2. For governments to achieve their objectives, they need a public service which is results focussed and which, when required, is able to advise on and implement change of a scale and at a pace which can at times be daunting

The second criterion highlights this reality. The Executives who can Achieve Results, in this environment are those who can operate strategically and flexibly and who think outside of organisational structures to focus on the broad framework of government objectives, not just those within their immediate responsibility. They can build long-term capability in their organisations

and use people flexibly to get the best possible results. They can create the environment where professional knowledge is shared, understood and used successfully.

3. The third criterion draws attention to the requirement to Cultivate Productive Working Relationships. As governments search for the best advice and the most efficient service delivery arrangements, the successful Senior Executives are those who are able to build productive working relationships with a wide range of contacts both within the Public Service and with players in other sectors. The ability to create a professional network and develop mutually beneficial relationships is crucial. Effective leaders must also be able to support and respect the individuality of others; recognising individual diversity and recognising and building on the benefits that such diversity brings to organisations.

4. Fourthly, the Framework identifies the need to Exemplify Personal Drive and Integrity. Public Service leaders have a special duty to uphold and promote the APS Values and Code of Conduct and consistently behave in an honest, ethical and professional way. The Government believes that these attributes are critical and go to the heart of the role of the Public Service and its place in Australian society. It is for this reason that we have, for the first time, fully articulated the Public Service Values and have included both the Values and the Code of Conduct in the Public Service Regulations to give them legislative force.

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The people who excel as leaders are willing to challenge ideas and confront issues, but are also prepared to acknowledge when they are wrong. They commit to action, are determined and highly motivated. Resilience is an important aspect of a leader - the ability to work hard to achieve objectives, to withstand criticism and get on with the job. Successful Senior Executives also show strong commitment to continued learning and take responsibility for their own development.

5. Finally, the ability to Communicate with Influence, which is the fifth criterion, is a key requirement of a Senior Executive’s role. Achievement of outcomes sought is often related to the ability to negotiate successfully. Leaders at this level must be able to persuade others with the quality of their arguments, matching the level and complexity of their communication to the knowledge and experience of the audience. In addition, the ability to listen to the views of others and to build on these is crucial.

These five criteria, together forming the Senior Executive Leadership Capability Framework, flow from a shared understanding of the critical success factors for high performance in APS leadership roles. As such, they constitute a new and comprehensive statement of the current and future requirements for effective APS leaders.

A Significant Shift in Understanding

These hew criteria herald a significant development in the understanding of the role and contribution of Senior Executives in the APS and, in particular, the behaviours which enable high performance.

The first and most obvious change is the recognition that leadership is central to the role of Senior Executives. In the former Senior Executive selection criteria, leadership was just one of five skill areas identified. It is established now, that leadership is the crucial element.

The Framework errtphasises the dynamism of that leadership. The old criteria talk of communicating the vision and setting strategies; the Framework highlights the need for Senior executives to be effective in shaping the thinking, goals and directions of their organisations and creating a shared sense of purpose and direction around these.


A broader perspective is sought under the Framework. Understanding the broad goals of governments and the interconnections between them, searching out the best possible information, globally, so that innovation can continue to thrive.

Significantly, the Framework sets out explicitly the APS values that underpin senior executive leadership.

Finally, the Framework is a statement about what successful Senior Executives actually do. Technical skill and knowledge are vital, but on their own, are not enough. They must be applied, and applied in a balanced way. Brilliant analysis without the ability to deliver on results or build the relationships that underpin a shared sense of purpose and direction cannot deliver results.

But of course, the practical benefit of the Framework is in its potential contribution to the development of, and planning for, the Senior Executive Service.

The Development of Senior Executives

An important outcome that I envisaged when I commissioned this project was the alignment of the Commission’s Senior Executive leadership programs with the new capabilities.

These programs play an important role in cross-service leadership development by providing Senior Executives with a comprehensive understanding of the overall environment and developing the range of key leadership skills.

Feedback from agencies is that the Public Service and Merit Protection Commission’s Senior Executive leadership programs are generally a cost-effective means of achieving these outcomes, and give access to a wide range of quality speakers and resources.

The Commission has now commenced the review and redevelopment of the existing APS-wide leadership development programs. This work will be undertaken in close cooperation with agencies and a new suite of programs will be available later this year.

Many agencies are of course, already working on leadership development as a means of improving performance. To support this work across the APS the Commissioner will release on the Commission’s website today, a Good Practice Guide to Leadership Development. This guide

identifies the key lessons that emerge from a review of global good practice and combines these with case studies, from the APS, and other industries, which demonstrate practical applications. This Guide will be updated on an ongoing basis.

To plan for the future, however, we must be able to pinpoint the specific development needs of both Senior Executives and those who aspire to the Senior Executive Service. To do so, we must be able to provide them with reliable and targeted information about their development needs and how they can be met.

To achieve these goals, the Commission is working with a group of Portfolio Secretaries and Agency Heads to develop a Career Development Assessment Centre based on the Leadership Capability Framework. This Centre will enable Senior Executives and high potential staff who aspire to Senior Executive roles to take responsibility for their ongoing career development by identifying their development needs and formulating strategies to address those needs.

It is envisaged that a Centre will be operational later this year. In the short term this Centre will certainly provide great benefits to those Agencies which use it. In the long term, the Service as a


whole will benefit from the strengthening of the capabilities of the APS leadership group and those who aspire to it.

We have no alternative but to make these investments in our future. When performance demands are as high as they are today, it is sometimes easier not to take the time to invest in leadership development. This is risky and shortsighted. Innovation and sustainability, personal and organisational, comes from continued learning and I encourage portfolio Secretaries and Agency Heads to enable their senior executives, and those who aspire to those roles, to make this investment

in the future of their Agencies, and the APS as a whole.

Succession Planning

One of the common themes in many large organisations today is sustainability. Nowhere is this issue of sustainability - the need to nurture and promote the people who can ensure success in the future - more important than in the leadership group.

Succession planning is about increasing the breadth and strengthening the depth of a pool of suitably qualified candidates who have the potential to take on positions at a higher level so that the Service as a whole has an increasing number of high quality leaders on which to draw. It is important to emphasise that succession planning is not about patronage or favouritism. It will be implemented in the APS within the framework of the merit principle and the APS Values.

Selecting Senior Executives

The APS has traditionally used a reasonably narrow set of selection practices. Community standards in these areas have evolved further. There are new challenges now facing the APS in ensuring that there is a sustainable stream of future Senior Executives. Demographic patterns mean that it is more important than ever to be able to reliably identify future potential. The current approaches can be strengthened both in this regard and in building on the APS commitment for a more inclusive Senior Executive Service.

Research suggests ho wever that the use of a wider range of validated selection mechanisms may further improve performance in this area.

The development of the Senior Executive Leadership Capability Framework provides the opportunity for agencies to re-examine the range of selection assessment mechanisms that they use, recognising the availability of a broader range of tools for use in selections, which enable them to

better prepare for the future. ,

One of the key objectives in setting out to develop this Framework was to create the basis on which to build an integrated approach to the management of the Senior Executive Service; to achieve congruence and focus in relation to this key resource.

I am very pleased therefore to announce that the five critieria identified in the Framework will replace the current SES selection criteria.

The five new critefia can be applied flexibly to suit agency requirements. To achieve entry to the SES, people must meet all five of the criteria at the appropriate level. But above that, Agencies will be able to determine the balance within and between each group of capabilities depending on Agency work, the demands and levels of individual jobs, and the mix of skills required in the executive team.

There is also provision for agency-specific needs to be taken into account - for example, matters relating to specific qualifications or tenure requirements might be included.

The principles upon which SES selection practices are based - equity, open competition on merit and natural justice - will continue to be of primary importance in SES selections.

Challenges Presented by the Framework

I have mentioned the process undertaken between the leadership group of the APS and the Commission to develop the Framework. That process resulted in consensus on what the shape of leadership in the APS should be, and commitment to the Framework that was developed.

It must be recognised, however, that there remain significant challenges associated with implementing the Framework, and ensuring that it is used to its maximum potential. One challenge will be for the leaders of the APS to recognise the opportunities that the Framework provides, and to make the most of them.

There are also challenges for Agency Heads and Senior Executives off a personal level in terms of what the Framework means to the individual Public Service leader. The Framework recognises the real challenges associated with the Senior Executive leadership role. It reflects the views of Public Service leaders about what they need to do to be effective. It provides a guide to assist leaders to

plan for their own development needs. In short, it provides a unique opportunity for each and every Senior Executive to become a better leader. The challenge will lie in recognising and acting upon that opportunity.


The Public Service has already responded to the challenges of the Government’s reform agenda with innovation and creativity. An improved focus on customer service has seen community perceptions of the Public Service begin to change. The fostering of an environment that encourages and motivates people, that attracts good people and finds ways of developing and using their capabilities and enthusiasm, has led to a more satisfying working environment and improved performance.

The development of this Framework is another significant step forward for the APS. By providing a roadmap to lead the Public Service towards better performance, the Framework makes it possible for the Public Service to be more ambitious about the future and what it is possible to achieve.

And iri this, the interests of the Government and the Public Service are one. It is imperative to Australia’s future that the APS continues to respond creatively to the opportunities offered to advance our goal of achieving a competitive and forward-looking Public Service that is internationally recognised as best practice. The Government would like to join with you, the

leaders and future leaders of the Public Service, in taking up that challenge.