Its about the Social Goods! Public Sector Leaders need apply

24 Mar

If leadership is about the bottom line, what is the bottom line in the public sector?  And how do we meet it?

A questions that met other questions and then had a question parade.  Thus a 3 part series.

Part 1- Social Goods

Ever read something, see its initial applicability  to your situation {oh yeah, this could work} but then find yourself doing mental gymnastics to try and make the information fit your situation{eh, the circumstances are not quite the same but I can probably learn something from this}?

In doing research on different types of leadership, I realize that most of them are written about  successful leaders using their respective styles (situational, transformational, hierarchical etc., etc.) to effect the private sector bottom line: profit. Because the leadership development work that I work on is the public sector , I am always forced to ask myself the following:

  • What is the bottom line for non profits?
  • Will the information that I find apply to the non profit sector?
  • If so, how do I translate it so that I can share it with people?
  • Why aren’t there more books written about leadership in the public sector? ( Wait, that is a frustration)

Social Goods:  Now we are on to something

What is the bottom line for the public sector ? If it not profits, what is it? I have been bumping up against this question for a while now.   For our sector, its about impact, its about change, its about societal and public good.

When I tried to simply replace the bottom line language- ” help increase your profits” , I was left with a really stupid statement. The bottom line would be  to help increase “your not for profits”.  That is nonsense and does not work.

Then I read a book that made it clear for me.  The book:  Leaders who make a Difference by Burt Nanus and Stephen Dobbs.

The gem of the book is that it outlines a bottom line was for the public sector the makes sense: SOCIAL GOODS

Social goods are the end, the fundamental purpose or mission, for which non profits organizations exist…

[They] are the educational, health, cultural and other benefits that accrue to society through the activities of these communities and their institutions…

… Contributions to the social good is the single most important measure of success of non profit organizations.

AHA Oprah Moment : If the public sector focuses on social goods as their bottom line; then we would need leaders who could build,  sustain and grow that bottom line. Right?  And what does that mean?

Back to the book:

Leadership effectiveness means producing a greater social good, usually by increasing organizational capital or creating and harnessing social energy… All of the things a leader does–setting direction, inspiring people, making organizational changes are simply a means to an ends.

Everything a leader does should relate back to the social good. Now, you might be wondering what is organizational capacity and social energy?  I will go into those in Parts 2 and 3 of the series.   I wanted to save us both from reading a 2000 word post.  Relieved?

For my peers in the public sector,  with a bottom line om line in my mind’s eye, here are some questions that I am now trying to use when I work with leaders:

  • What is your organization’s or agencie’s social good?
  • Can you find it? It it in the mission statement or is it in the vision statement?
  • Can you look at all of the work of the organization and see how it all relates back to the social goods?
  • And what are you as a leader doing to support it from where you sit ? (this is not a title question of the LEADERSHIP, it is a question of accountability and ownership that we all have as leaders)

I have my touchstone now for doing the work that I do, do you ?

Next post:  What is Social Energy?


2 Responses to “Its about the Social Goods! Public Sector Leaders need apply”

  1. Nancy Iannone March 25, 2010 at 12:09 am #

    Erika –

    Good discussion starter on an issue the Community Benefit sector struggles with. My brilliant husband always reminds me that in business your input is money with the goal of making money (bottom line). In Community Benefit you put in money and create social change (social good) That is the reason our organizations exist. Sounds like we, at least, are all on the same page 🙂

    When I started seeing more confusion among the leadership in organizations, was when many articles started pointing the Community Benefit sector at “running like a business”. Running efficiently and effectively is important, but it is a means toward achieving social change at all levels, not the end goal.

    Looking forward to reading the rest of the series!


  1. Hit the Links! « Allies2010 - April 17, 2010

    […] Ericka Hines explores what the “bottom line” is on leadership in the public sector. (Social Change Diva) […]

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