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Megatrends and the future of work for public sector leaders and educators

Mahabat Baimyrzaeva (Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Monterey, California, USA)
Carolyn Taylor Meyer (Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Monterey, California, USA) (Human and Organizational Studies, Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, California, USA)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 25 November 2020

Issue publication date: 12 April 2021

Abstract

Purpose

This article asks (1) what megatrends are likely to significantly influence public sector roles and in what ways and (2) how might higher education institutions better prepare public sector leaders for the future shaped by these trends. While public sector leadership in every region, country and locality is unique, they are exposed to the same set of global megatrends. Therefore, this article teases out general insights, observations and implications for public sector leaders and educators by focusing on the effects of these trends.

Design/methodology/approach

The article is informed by a review and synthesis of relevant academic and practitioner sources and is complemented by the authors' survey (n = 64) of public affairs practitioners and educators. The survey is not representative and is used to supplement other inferences from the literature.

Findings

The key megatrends reshaping public sector jobs include demographic and climate changes, technological advances and deepening social fragmentation. The confluence of such trends has increasingly strained the public sector's capacity to respond to present challenges, let alone prepare for the future. The future public sector leaders can benefit from new competencies, including ability to think systematically, see the big picture and ability to solve complex problems. Ideally, they would also have a strong capacity to foster collaboration and cohesion among diverse stakeholders, to model ethical and inclusive behavior, to accommodate, facilitate and bridge competing and conflicting viewpoints and become creative innovators and doers who can operate in increasingly complex environments, while navigating and reshaping their governments' outdated institutional structures.

Research limitations/implications

The key trends reshaping public sector jobs include environmental, demographic and technological factors and deepening social fragmentation. The confluence of such factors has increasingly strained the public sector's capacity to respond to present challenges, let alone prepare for the future. The authors observe that the future of public sector practitioners may benefit from new competencies including digital and data fluency, high emotional intelligence, who are also big picture thinkers who understand global megatrends and their impacts locally. Ideally, they would have a strong capacity to foster cohesion among fragmented and polarized communities, to model ethical and inclusive behavior, to accommodate, facilitate and bridge diverse viewpoints and become creative innovators and doers who can operate in increasingly complex environments, while navigating and reshaping their governments' outdated institutional structures.

Practical implications

The megatrends listed above have significant implications for public sector leaders and educators who train them.

Social implications

There is a new awareness about the need to train public sector workers on diversity and inclusion issues. This paper discusses global trends through this lens.

Originality/value

This synthesis of the literature from academic and practitioner sources, supplemented with the original survey of educators and professionals, intends to open up a conversation about the future of public affairs leadership and education.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

We would like to express our deep gratitude to Dr. Cristián Pliscoff Varas from the Universidad de Chile and Dr. Erlyana Erlyana at California State University Long Beach for participating in a 2019 NASPAA conference panel with us in that led to further development of this research.

Citation

Baimyrzaeva, M. and Meyer, C.T. (2021), "Megatrends and the future of work for public sector leaders and educators", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 178-195. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPL-07-2020-0064

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited