How to Be a Leader in Changing Times

Executives walking outside of their business
Executives walking outside of their business

Public policy decisions at all levels of government resonate far beyond their introduction. Every policy starts as an idea and is shaped into a potential solution through extensive research and discussion. Leaders implement and adjust policies as necessary in response to dynamic global conditions.

Experienced professionals learn how to be a leader in today’s complex and ever-changing environment at the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University. The online Master of Public Policy and Leadership at the School of Public Policy emphasizes ethical leadership for policy challenges across sectors. This innovative degree builds on the foundations of a typical Master of Public Policy with lessons on how to lead in a changing world.

Challenges and Opportunities for Leaders

Leading a meeting

Public, private, and nonprofit leaders contend with significant global shifts in how we live and work. New technological and social trends are intertwined with policy challenges that have existed for generations. The National Academy of Public Administration ( NAPA ) identified grand challenges facing leaders in the 21st century including:

  • Building resilient communities

  • Connecting individuals to meaningful work

  • Fostering social equity

  • Protecting election integrity

  • New approaches to public governance and engagement

Leaders see these changes as opportunities for innovation rather than obstacles to progress. For example, artificial intelligence that can handle routine tasks has been viewed as a threat to workers. Deloitte points out how successful leaders can use automation to unleash the following skills from their employees:

  • Relating to clients and customers

  • Mentoring and teaching fellow employees

  • Solving complex or unexpected problems

  • Using creativity to design and implement programs

The future of public policy includes a growing demand for new ways to solve problems. This expectation opens the door to cross-sector collaboration and innovation uncommon in the past. Deloitte’s report on the future of government work concludes on a similar note:

“. . . a reimagined future of work should produce a brighter future for those who work on behalf of government as well as those who are served by it.”

Traits Needed for Success in Public Policy Careers

Public policy challenges and emerging issues like COVID-19 require steady leaders who can pivot as priorities change. The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) notes, “There is never a “routine” day in local government management.” Leaders need the following traits to achieve balance in their public policy careers.

Effective Communication Skills

Success in public policy careers depends on your ability to effectively communicate with diverse audiences. Partnership for Public Service identifies three skills for leaders who want to make positive impacts with their work:

  1. Curiosity while listening

  2. Asking questions to create dialogue

  3. Making requests that are specific, inclusive, and actionable

Leaders who learn to speak and listen with others in mind develop sustainable relationships. These skills empower stakeholders, colleagues, and teammates to effectively collaborate no matter the task.

Strong Ethical Foundation

The foundation of any policy discussion is where the proposed policy falls within the spectrum of right and wrong. From healthcare to education, stakeholders in the policy process have to consider ethical issues such as our responsibility to the poor and the role of the state. High ethical standards guide leaders as they improve the lives of others.

Focus on Innovation

Public policy discussions in the past have focused on improvements rather than innovations. Government agencies, nonprofits, and universities have focused on changing what exists rather than creating new policies. The future of public policy careers requires leaders who can innovate processes, services, and interactions with the public.

Visionary Mindset

A clear vision of a better tomorrow is at the core of a leader’s long-term success. Day-to-day management of an agency or organization is only part of the job for experienced professionals. Harvard Business Review notes that “organizations renew their visions more frequently than their missions,” emphasizing the need for ongoing evaluation.

Continuous Improvement

The American Society for Quality (ASQ) defines continuous improvement concept as “the ongoing improvement of products, services, or processes through incremental and breakthrough improvements.” An important lesson in how to be a leader is that standing still is falling behind. The drive to improve—no matter the size or scope of the improvement—is vital for successful leaders.

Prospects for Public Policy Careers

Public policy professionals have a broad spectrum of options after completing graduate programs. The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration ( NASPAA ) found the following sectors employed graduates in 2019:

  • Government (49%)

  • Nonprofit (23%)

  • Private (17%)

  • Military (4%)

Graduates who took government positions were distributed across local, state, national, and foreign agencies. Policy experts find opportunities that best fit their desired level of service and professional goals.

Leadership jobs for public policy majors provide high returns on investment. The following positions - listed with median salary - can be filled by policy professionals with leadership experience:

The long-term prospects for public policy careers are strong because there is consistent demand for good leaders. The combination of policy acumen, interpersonal skills, and a desire to serve the greater good opens doors to high-level positions. You can build this marketable combination with an online Master of Public Policy and Leadership program at the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University.

Understand How to be a Leader at Pepperdine University

Employee training

This innovative online Master of Public Policy and Leadership degree teaches each student how to be a leader that is open to diverse viewpoints. Professionals with diverse backgrounds are taught to be servant leaders who can positively impact the public policy world. These lessons are learned at a university ranked No. 49 in National Universities by U.S. News & World Report .

Degree candidates bookend their studies with a five-course Public Policy Leadership core and a capstone project. The online master’s program allows for customization by requiring at least one of the following certificates:

These certificates can also be taken as stand-alone certificates. Contact an enrolment advisor to find how the online Master of Public Policy and Leadership can advance your career.

Find out how the online Master of Public Policy and Leadership from Pepperdine University can elevate your career

Interested in studying on-campus? Learn more about the on-ground Master of Public Policy program we offer at our Malibu campus.