Leadership Means Nurturing Team Members to Grow

April 5, 2022 by Ratka Sekulović

As of summer 2016, I have been managing ReSPA – a regional institution established by the European Commission and the governments of the Western Balkans to support public administration reforms (PAR) in the region.

After more than five years of working jointly with my team to make bridges in public administration between Western Balkans countries and the European Union to support and foster reforms in the region, I have understood the importance of making deep connections among team members as a prerequisite to success.

Leading is not only about decision-making or problem-solving. It is rather about nurturing team members to grow.

Being aware that the institution's strength is based on the power of the team, I knew that the basis of the success of ReSPA and me as a leader lies in building strong bonds and mutual trust in my team, so that we can build confidence and grow together. It lies in constant support and giving everyone in the team enough space to express themselves and achieve personal development. Without mutual trust, there is no progress or success. When you have mutual trust and confidence in the team, it is much easier to communicate without boundaries and brainstorm in an assertive way to find the best solutions for overcoming challenges and accomplishing all demanding tasks. The ever-changing political situation in the region that influenced our work, demanding projects, and finally, the global pandemic were only a fraction of the challenges we faced, forcing us to analyze from different perspectives and find the best possible solution. The power of leadership is to turn difficulties into the driving force and influence by bringing people together and letting them give their best. It is impossible to do so if you are not a compassionate leader.

The growth of the team members reflects on the improved work program

Apart from making strong bonds between team members, it is also important to invest in their knowledge through organizing training programs tailored to their needs. The more expertise we have, the more people will recognize us as someone who can talk and understand the real needs of Western Balkan governments. And that is one of the things that I am very proud of. After so many years of working jointly with my colleagues on the PARs in the Western Balkans, we can say that we understand the region and its needs in the demanding reform process.

Our work program is oriented to senior civil servants who further incorporate the acquired knowledge, skills and tools into the reform process and institutional progress. The constant growth and power of a team have been most evident in the ReSPA program of work development. We have to bring together expertise, experience and innovation to develop activities tailored to the specific needs of the Western Balkan governments and to try respond to them effectively within complex thematic areas.

team @unsplash

Over the years, we have made every effort to support the transformation of bureaucratic institutions into modern public administrations in the region by implementing numerous program activities that positively impact reform processes in our member countries and their national strategies. The results of these activities have been primarily evident through introducing merit-based employment, performance appraisal, coordination of public policies, digital transformation and quality management in public services. In addition, we have published over 30 studies that include more than 150 regional and country-specific recommendations. All these achievements would not be possible if we did not share the same passion, motivation and enthusiasm. Especially in challenging times, I found myself as a role model for my team to take hard but brave solutions. There is no real success and progress if the leader is not brave enough to take risk and be smart to accept failure. Team should not be afraid of experimenting; that is very often the right way to achieve the highest possible objectives.

Externally, the power of leadership is visible through knowledge, expertise and ability to collaborate mutually and effectively

The power of regional networking is at the heart of ReSPA's ethos. ReSPA has placed immeasurable significance on regional cooperation and good coordination with the ministries responsible for the PARs in the Western Balkans, the European Commission and other international institutions that we collaborate with, which is embedded in our hypernym/slogan "Building together governance for the future". It is clear to us at ReSPA that the public administration of the region is becoming much more efficient and is truly in the service of citizens, and I believe that the citizens of the region recognize this more and more.

I am proud that we have made a visible impact in implementing national reforms and, jointly with the Western Balkan governments, have achieved results steadily. The digitalization of business processes, the increased number of electronic services, the optimization of public administration, the improvement of quality management in civil service systems, merit-based recruitment and professional development of civil servants are just some areas where improvements have been made. I believe that we have contributed significantly to making public administration better for serving our citizens.

The number of women leaders is constantly rising in the Western Balkan public administrations

I have noticed that the number of women leaders in the region is rising constantly. I would say that female leaders bring more sensibility and good energy into leadership. Strongness combined with a smile and softness, empathy and taking care of details are things that I have noticed in female leadership. I have had some role models throughout my career. But I have to say that the best role model has been my mother. She is a leader by heart with her strongness, clarity in mind, warmth, and supportiveness. She often says to me, "Never stop learning. No matter what stage you are at in your career, you can continue to learn, evolve, and grow." And I will never stop doing that. Knowledge is the power and nobody can take it away from you.

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