The skills public managers need to be successful

Jobs in the public management sector may be demanding, but it is rewarding to be part of the process of change and the preparation for possible disruption.

There are certain skills and traits that public managers need to make a difference in communities and to make a success of their careers, see which of these you already have and which you need to focus on.


The ability to influence, guide and inspire people to achieve a common goal. Leaders need to be proficient, know their team members, take ownership of their projects, and set the example.

Negotiation and organisation

In the public management sector, various personalities and projects need to be managed, the ability to organise and negotiate will help you manage your responsibilities. Negotiation skills include evaluating a situation and determining what is necessary.


Having the ability to conceive of ideas and concepts means nothing if you can’t communicate it to others. Communication skills include being a good listener, interpersonal, verbal, non-verbal, writing and presentation skills.

Emotional intelligence

This is closely linked to our communication skills and this is what helps us recognise and evaluate our own emotions and those of others. The first step towards emotional intelligence is knowing yourself and being in command of your feelings and emotions.

Teamwork and working alone

The ability to work independently when needed, but having the capacity to be a team player to achieve the common goal. That said, the ability to have independent thoughts are necessary for public sector jobs.

Creativity and flexibility

This relates to the ability to create original ideas or recognise good ideas presented by others. It can include coming up with innovative solutions to problems.

Decision making

There are often difficult decisions that need to be made, and they need to be made with confidence and conviction.

Current affairs and policy issues

You need to be up to date with the news of the day to understand the importance of policy and policy expectation and changes.


There are many different personalities in the workplace and it is a competitive environment, you need to understand your strengths and limitations, and believe in yourself.


Problems and obstacles will always arise, but it is crucial to be flexible and see opportunities and solutions rather than barriers and issues. The actions you take need to relate to the goal.

Time management

Planning and working to deadlines is important in the public sector as the chances are millions of people depend on it. There may be multiple projects running at the same time and having a schedule will help you continually focus on the next steps.


Share the workload and responsibilities with your team. Know and trust the people around you, they are working with you towards a common goal, and remember to always share the credit for a job well done.


Workers find it easier to give of themselves in a positive, joyful environment. People are less likely to go the extra mile for an unfriendly, overly critical colleague, whereas they will push the limits for a positive, enthusiastic, encouraging manager, someone who also pushes them to grow and become their best selves.

If you work in the public management sector and want to grow your career, the University of Pretoria’s online Postgraduate Diploma in Public Management will be the perfect fit for you.