Effective Public Policy

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Effective public policy carefully evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the policy design process by using various leadership theories as a framework. Additionally, policies indicate the individual role leadership plays in managing policy design, operation, implementation, and analysis within a governing body. It explores the role of the practitioner-scholar in the development of community issues, as well as the role of public service leaders in fostering and maintaining appropriate and robust community relationships to address problems through the implementation of laws and budgets(Bardach & Patashnik, 2015). Then, it briefly summarizes the basic tenets of both ethical behavior and diversity in public service leadership to create effective policies that address the needs of a leaders’ constituents. It concludes with a brief description of the most pertinent issues and standards public service leaders must be privy to succeed in creating meaningful public policy and being good civil servants (Pressman & Wildavsky, 1984).

The characteristics of public policies vary, greatly, depending on personality, environment, culture, and task at hand. However, several basic theories can be used to assess the strengths and weaknesses of leadership characteristics as they apply to public needs. Transformational Leadership Theory highly values leaders who develop social values and individual purpose of addressing problems within their communities(Bardach & Patashnik, 2015). According to Palle (2006), affirmative policies include moral integrity, an ability and willingness to stand up for what is right, regardless of the situation, a strict and clearly defined set of standards and beliefs, and personal motivation and dedication(Cline, 2008). These attributes are admirable because they promote a set rule that the rest of the workforce can follow.

Furthermore, they include virtues, such as fairness and equality. On the other hand, critics note that leaders who adhere too strictly to these norms and standards are idealistic (as opposed to realistic) and frequently too rigid to adopt policies to changing or emergencies (Palle, 2006). Despite its weaknesses, an appropriate approach to policy-making includes positive leadership qualities and proven theories on leadership (Stillman & Richard, 1991).

The Trait Theory looks at three specific areas – abilities, personal traits, and motivators – and highlights important characteristics policymakers should display for each category to effective management policies(Moore, 1995). For capabilities, admiral traits include the ability to supervise, intelligence, and initiative. The personal traits leaders should demonstrate include self-assurance, decisiveness, and maturity. Finally, lauded motivational characteristics include the want to self-actualize, obtain power over others, secure high financial rewards, and garnish job security(Pralle, 2006). While these traits are indeed helpful for some situations, opponents to Trait Theory point out that these traits are not conducive to public service laws(Bosso, 1994). For instance, financial gain and power are typically not very prominent in this field. Instead, commitment to a common good and humanitarian causes might be more appropriate motivational factors to creating policy. On the other hand, by and large, the personal traits and abilities are more conducive to public policies that benefit all of society(Bosso, 1994).

In the field of public service, leaders play a crucial role in managing changes in policy administration and explain how critical analysis of a problem needs to be solved by law. Pralle (2006) notes that the public service field, perhaps more than most other areas, is continually changing, evolving and developing due to changes in a particular target group or elected governing body in a specific time. As these needs change, leadership has to be able to help the rest of the workforce make the necessary adaptations to their modus operandi (Bardach & Patashnik, 2015). Unfortunately, change is hard and intimidating for most leaders. Once in a routine, few people will want to break stride and change their course of direction(Pralle, 2006) Not only must public service leaders identify changing needs, analyze the situation, and enact and implement actionable plans, they must help their subordinates adapt to these changes to keep a fair and orderly governing agency (Warner, 2001). Public service policies highlight that communication is the key. If public service leaders want necessary policy changes to occur smoothly and efficiently, they have to establish a line of open communication with their subordinates. Not only should they explain, in precise detail, the changes, but they also have to justify these changes (Majone & Wildavsky, 1984). The workforce must know why these changing are occurring so that they can see the big picture and the ultimate goals.

Additionally, research emphasizes that communication has to go both ways for a policy to be effective. The administrators must include all vested parties within the process. Workers should be allowed to ask questions, provide input, and have their concerns heard and recognized(Stewart et al., 2007). Leaders must lead by example and help their subordinates critically analyze policies to gain an understand of why implementing the changes are vital to society.

The practitioner-scholar is in a unique position because they not only study theories and basic leadership principles used in policy making but the witness, firsthand, how these theories and principles play out in everyday life and real-world situations (May 1992). The practitioner-scholar is not only required to learn the various leadership theories, but they must also be able to apply these theories to the governor body to see if proposed legislation are practical and applicable(Stewart et al., 2007). A practitioner-scholar is both the researcher and the person implementing the findings. Through understanding leadership theories and applying them to actual workplace situations, the practitioner-scholar can modify the method to fit the environment and current problem (Schneider & Ingram, 1997). The research not only helps to develop leadership skills in the practitioner-scholar, but it also aids the more significant public service community. Policymakers gain insight into what works for various types of situations by examining the research findings and critically addressing the usefulness of the results (Schneider & Ingram, 1997).

Public policy, as the name suggests, involves the whole governing body of a community or state legislature to make effective laws and implement the legislation (May 1992). .The branches of government will decide on policy decisions that influence everyday life. Therefore, policymaking is multidisciplinary in focus and requires leaders who can bridge the gaps and unite many, seemingly unrelated, community members and sectors of the public(Stewart et al., 2007). Public service leaders play a vital role in networking with their larger community to ensure that all departments and divisions are working together for the common good. Research rightfully points out that no one public service is an island; instead, all public service sectors must be able to coordinate to provide the best services possible to their communities(Cline, 2008).

Public services leaders are responsible for understanding what their communities have to offer and building the relationships necessary within the branches of government to help the public obtain the services and benefits available to them(Rohr, 2001). For example, a state representative would need to build relationships with the local homeless shelters, community donation centers, food banks, housing authority, and general healthcare agencies to obtain data to service their needs. Then, they would be able to guide their elected officials in the right direction and maximize their chances of success in getting the adequate funding necessary for the organization to succeed (Duffy, 1997).

Probably the five most essential tenets of ethical leadership and policy-making include: respecting the opinions, worldviews, beliefs, and values of others; putting others first through servant-leadership; showing justice and fairness instead of favoritism; manifesting integrity and honesty; and building a safe and secure community where all people can thrive and grow. Public service leaders must be able to create and maintain a governing body that includes all of these basic ethical norms and standards (Newton, 2005). To ensure a proper work environment, public service leaders must be very astute to issues of diversity and inclusion. Duffy (1997) notes that many times, leaders inflict their own, narrow worldview onto everyone and does not foster the individuality of people within a community. Diversity should be applauded and cultivated within legalization. The research and implementation of policy can be done by honoring and respecting all people and trying to include more diverse individuals into the decision team(Pressman & Wildavsky, 1984). Leaders who genuinely show respect for diversity and aim to cover a wide range of people into their workforce, typically, are more productive and create an environment with policies designed to ensure people within a community are free to express themselves, their ideas, and their opinions without the fear of reprisal or not getting reflected(Rohr, 2001). In sum, a commitment to the individual worth and dignity of every citizen is relevant to effective public service leadership and legislation.

Affordance and algorithms are used to determine the language and scope of a policy to ensure fairness and equality within society (Stillman & Richard, 1991). Affordance is an assessment of the physical characteristics of products used in a procedure which influence its function. In other words, individual objects are better for specific environments and situations. An algorithm is a double-edged sword – it has both positive and negative aspects. Probably, the most positive point is that the algorithm is efficient. It is the last step in the knowledge model in policy design(Bardach & Patashnik, 2015). Once policymakers get to the algorithm phase, they focus on setting specific goals and rules. Leaders need to focus on attention on the set rules which can establish progress. The use of algorithms and affordance will enable policies to be enacted quickly and efficiently(Bardach & Patashnik, 2015). Little human thinking needs to take place after an Algorithm. Everything needs a detailed plan which, once followed, allows the governing body to run smoothly, effectively, and efficiently(Newton, 2005).

There are negative aspects to using algorithms for the policy decision. One negative point is that once something reaches the state of an algorithm, there is no judgment left. Removal of the human element causes mathematical equations to take its place(Stillman & Richard, 1991). Removal of the thought process means that creativity and intuition Rare completely disregarded in exchange for formulas. Individualized needs of a community could be left out, and it does not take into account for diversity issues among people living in a specific area(Stone, 2011). There is no one size fits all design to making policies. Every policymaker has different sets of criteria to examine based on the needs of their constituents and region they service(Bardach & Patashnik, 2015). Also, to get to an algorithm, many factors need to be left out. Algorithms simplify information to a manageable level; however, some of the left out information is very relevant. Omitting relevant facts, in turn, can cause algorithms to fail to fulfill their purpose of creating fair and balanced policies(Bardach & Patashnik, 2015).

Schneider & Ingram (1997) suggests that one way create fair policies is to incorporate intuitive thinking even though it is biased and influenced by popular public opinion. Elected officials will campaign on policy platforms, and popular vote will decide which candidate to the governing body (Schneider & Ingram, 1997). The platforms are the candidate's ideas of how government should function and what type of legislation is needed. Lawmakers not required to present valid facts to support their claims or ideas for new policies. Drawbacks to this type of policy are lack of validity and oversight of research design needed for effective policy making(Schneider & Ingram, 1997).

Effective policymaking involves analytical thinking – which attempts to achieve reliability – and there is intuitive thinking – which tries to achieve validity (Schneider & Ingram, 1997). Each type of policy thinking has its place and should be based on current research and critically examining the success rate of similar policies. Analytic thinking is excellent for honing and refining knowledge, but it is not good for moving between the mystery phase and the algorithm phase of policy design and implementation because it involves intuitive thinking which is less reliable (Duffy, 1997).

Ultimately, the practitioner-scholar model allows the leader to not only study theory, but apply it to the actual governing body and policymaking. Of course, it is pertinent for government leaders to understand leadership theory to create effective policies (Pralle, 2006). Good leaders know the various leadership models, can see the connection between themselves and the broader community, can identify the tenets of ethical behavior, diversity, and inclusion, and can motivate their subordinates towards accomplishing a common goal(Stivers, 1994). However, knowledge in these areas is one thing; applying this knowledge to pass legislation is quite another. That is why the “practitioner” portion is vital. This aspect gives the individual an opportunity to see how the policy works – or fails to work – in real life for all types of people(.Pralle, 2006) Through trial and error, practitioner-leaders can hone in their techniques and alter their approaches to maximize the benefit of policies and the effectiveness of budgets. (Stone, 2011). This balanced relationship is the key to successful government and laws, especially in the diversified public sector.

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Effective Public Policy. (2021, Apr 09). Retrieved June 15, 2024 , from

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