Grooming leaders to tackle complex challenges

SINGAPORE - When Singapore was blanketed by severe haze in June 2013, N95 masks were sold out in many places as the Pollutant Standards Index hit record highs.

But when the haze returned last year - and again last month - there were no such shortages.

Government agencies had reviewed the events of 2013 and identified areas for improvement.

They ensured an ample supply of N95 masks and issued regular health advisories to the public.

One of the public servants involved in the effort was Mr Jonathan Capel, 35, from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). He worked closely with colleagues in the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources to draw up plans and guidelines.

Such close coordination between government agencies is a key goal of the two-year-old Public Service Leadership Programme (PSLP), which Mr Capel, now deputy director in MHA's Joint Operations Group, joined when it started in 2013.

Another 120 officers joined the scheme this year, and there are now 695 public servants on it.

The PSLP aims to develop expertise in the officers' fields and groom them as leaders in sectors such as security, central administration, and economics, which affect multiple agencies.

There are site visits, case studies, and dialogues with senior public servants. Mr Capel also had the chance to work with other organisations in the security sector such as the Ministry of Defence.

"The PSLP has broadened the definition of what a public sector leader is supposed to be," he said in a press interview.

Mr Capel added that in the past year, a pilot initiative to hone his knowledge and skills - called the sectoral competency framework - has challenged him to better mastersecurity issues.

He is also passing down the newly acquired expertise to his staff as it "gives them a sense of identity as a security sector officer".

"At the end of the day, it's about building up everybody to be leaders in their own right," he said.

Head of the Civil Service Peter Ong said at the Public Service Leadership dinner on Tuesday (Oct 27) night that feedback was encouraging from the small group of agencies involved in the pilot run of the sectoral competency framework.

Being deeply rooted in specialist communities, he added, will allow officers "to pull together people, knowledge and resources to work collaboratively across (the) Government for the best outcomes".

The framework will be rolled out to all PSLP officers early next year. It will also be applied to guide the development of training programmes across the public service.