Global Leaders Call For Investing in Public Sector Leadership and Management

November 19, 2021

The call for greater investment is made in a report released by the Council today

Robert Newman, Council Secretary

Washington, DC, November 19, 2021-The High Level Council on Leadership and Management for Development, which is hosted by the Aspen Institute, has called on governments and development institutions to ramp up investment in building public sector leadership skills. The Council, which includes former heads of state and cabinet ministers as well as senior leaders at international institutions and in philanthropy, cautions that underinvestment in these skills will limit progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Collectively, we recognise the need for visionary leadership to successfully confront our biggest challenges when it comes to health, the economy, food security, education, and the environment,” said former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a member of the High-Level Council. “This could herald an era of remarkable collective leadership – an opportunity to not only overcome COVID-19 as the most widespread public health and economic crisis of the past 100 years, but also to turn it into one of our greatest leaps forward.”

The call for greater investment is made in a report released by the Council today.

“In an increasingly complex and interconnected global operating environment, there is urgent need to invest in developing visionary leadership and effective management skillsets that are critical for the optimal functioning of public institutions, and this investment should be increasingly seen as a public good,” said Dr Robert Newman, the Council Secretary.

The report calls for a shift in approach to developing public sector leaders and teams, and emphasises on-the- job approaches that address existing gender inequalities and that incorporate coaching, experiential learning, and peer learning. The paper makes the case that this effort will pay dividends as teams of civil servants become more effective and efficient, which in turn will attract new talent to public service.

The report estimates that lower- and middle-income countries will need to invest an average of US$500 per person annually in strengthening leadership and management skills for the public sector, which represents approximately 0.4% of Gross National Income (GNI). It argues that the efficiency gains resulting from better- managed public spending will far exceed the investment required. The Council also proposes that countries develop their own scorecards to track progress towards their leadership and management goals and measure the impact of their investments.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, a member of the council said “Experience has shown that the most important determinants of progress in meeting global goals include strong and committed leadership and proactive and capable governance institutions at the national and local levels to ensure that the global agenda is translated into national strategies, budgets and actions. We need to invest in developing these leaders.”

Click here to view the full report.


The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit 

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