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SES require a broad range of leadership capabilities to navigate the APS through increasing complexity.

SES are expected to lead by motivating and organising people to produce outcomes that make a difference to the nation. It is not just about what they deliver, but also how they deliver through their teams and networks. This includes engaging others to innovate, collaborate, and create change.

The Secretaries Talent Council, with the endorsement of the Secretaries Board have identified the leadership capabilities considered critical for success in the most senior roles in the APS.


To provide the best policy advice to government, senior leaders need to be able to scan the horizon for emerging trends, identifying opportunities and challenges for the nation.


To take the government’s policy agenda forward, senior leaders need the capacity to persuade others towards an outcome, winning and maintaining the confidence of government and key stakeholders.


In making progress on issues that cut across agencies, sectors and nations, senior leaders need to be able to develop relationships, build trust and find common ground with others. An openness to diverse perspectives is critical.


In finding new and better ways of achieving outcomes on behalf of government and citizens, senior leaders need to be able to challenge current perspectives, generate new ideas and experiment with different approaches. They also need to be adept at managing risk.


Creating an environment that empowers individuals and teams to deliver their best for government and citizens is a core requirement for senior leaders. This includes setting expectations, nurturing talent and building capability.


Senior leaders need to be highly skilled at managing the delivery of complex projects, programs and services. This includes harnessing the opportunity provided by digital technology to improve delivery outcomes for citizens.

Self-awareness, courage and resilience

These personal qualities sit at the heart of effective leadership in the APS. For APS leaders, mobilising and driving change requires a strong capacity for action and agency on the one hand, and an equally strong capacity for understanding and contending with constraints. Self-awareness, courage and resilience enable senior leaders to hold stead through the challenges of leadership.


Last reviewed: 
12 February 2020