New Program Hopes to Produce Better Leaders in State Government

by Barry Waldman

“Leadership remains the number one talent issue facing organizations around the world,” says the consulting firm Deloitte, analyzing the findings of a survey that found 86% of respondents rating it “urgent” or “important” but only 13% rating their experience developing leaders as “excellent.” 

For a state like South Carolina, which lags the national average in most educational and health metrics, the need is even greater and the gap even more dire. 

The South Carolina Certified Public Manager (CPM) Program 

An educational program operated by the South Carolina Department of Administration aims to narrow that gap. Its South Carolina Certified Public Manager (CPM) Program trains professionals for management and supervisor positions in state government. 

The accredited program creates a pathway to enter public service at the management and supervisory level without the time and financial investment of obtaining a graduate degree. It is expected that this could disproportionately benefit minorities who can’t afford to dedicate two or more years and tens of thousands of dollars to earn a degree. 

Public management, which involves planning and executing programs, is more hands-on than public administration, which concerns the development and application of policies.  

Short-circuiting the Graduate Degree Route 

An indication of the need for developing public management leaders without the multi-year investment of a CPM graduate degree is that two middle managers at an institution of higher learning – South Carolina State University-Clemson University extension service – have been selected to participate in the program.  

One of the participants is Midlands regional director of the SC State 1890 Extension and has a Ph.D. Dr. MaKelia Mitchell says she is grateful to have an opportunity to improve her skills.  “I am confident that the SC CPM program will enhance my management, leadership and communication skills and prepare me to better manage our Midlands staff and positively impact the lives of our stakeholders and community members,” she said. 

The other SCSU participant, Boyd Owens, is the upstate regional director for the SC State 1890 Extension. He recognizes the importance of developing exceptional leaders. 

“Effective leaders must have a goal and the ability to effectively execute a vision for that goal,” he said. 

Details of the CPM Program 

The 18-month program is designed to assist government agencies in developing future leaders in the public sector by providing quality training to managers and supervisors.   

According to the state, the CPM program “helps participants to identify their strengths and areas of improvement through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Edge360 feedback tool. Through this self-reflection, program participants can hone their management skills, strengthen strategic leadership skills, identify processes for improvement and build a collaborative team environment.”  

Although the aim of the program is to funnel participants into state government positions, demand for their services is strong across sectors. CPM credentials are sought by state, federal and local governments, the non-profit sector, educational institutions, and consultants and contractors. 

The program develops the seven core competencies expected of CPMs: 

• Personal and Organizational Integrity  

• Managing Work  

• Leading People  

• Developing Self  

• Systematic Integration  

• Public Service Focus  

• Change Leadership  

LGC Supports Diversifying Leadership Ranks 

The Lowcountry Graduate Center (LGC) recognizes the value of this program because of its ability to arm emergent middle managers in public administration with the leadership tools and knowledge they need to advance both as a public servant and future leader. Because the CPM program is significantly less expensive and time-consuming than a full master’s degree in public management, it allows members of under-represented groups to learn the skills and develop management expertise so necessary to one’s success. The ability of the program, with few if any headwinds, to diversify the ranks of leadership in the state is an important benefit. 

The South Carolina Certified Public Manager Program supports the LGC’s goal of increasing opportunity to all citizens of the region. 

“Economic development across the state of South Carolina is dependent on outstanding leaders who recognize the inevitability of change and are proficient at steering their organizations to tackle new and evolving challenges,” said Nancy Muller, director of the LGC. “As an organization charged with supporting our region’s economic development, we appreciate the value of managers with leadership abilities and this program that helps them develop those skills.”