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5 Traits of Collaborative Leaders in Public Service

Public service faces many challenges in today's climate, including lack of funding, ever-growing and diverse populations and shrinking pools of resources. Managing people and resources takes a well-trained and strategically focused leader. A Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree can help train students to develop the skills and abilities needed to lead different groups of stakeholders. While their backgrounds may be quite varied, there are some common traits of collaborative leaders.

  1. Leaders have a sense of purpose. They are able to communicate the end goal of a specific program or policy so that entire departments or communities understand the steps and changes that are needed to achieve success.
  2. A long-term positive mindset is beneficial. This type of person can see the big picture and how the available resources fit into the process for achieving success. They are able to adapt to changes and setbacks while keeping everyone on task and guiding the collaborative effort toward a positive outcome.
  3. Strategic thinking is highly important, especially when it comes to plans, people, abilities and services. Leaders should be able to use the available resources and maximize their effectiveness, while at the same time pulling in the extra resources needed from other departments or from the private sector. Strategic thinking is a trait of collaborative leaders that can be exercised and utilized in an online MPA program. Group projects and internships provide ample opportunity for strategic thinking and planning.
  4. A personable leader is able to pull a team together and get them on the same page, united around the same goal. At the same time, they should be able to go out into the public to share the goal and create a positive environment. Ultimately, the leader needs to work with people from all walks of life, backgrounds and businesses.
  5. Finally, effective communication is crucial. It takes a lot of work to communicate the goals, needs and plans of a successful collaborative program. An effective collaborative leader can clearly outline and explain the purpose and desired outcome to diverse groups of people, both internal and external, who need to work together to achieve success. Communication can be practiced in an online MPA program while students are completing coursework or participating in group projects or internships.

Everyone has ownership of and a stake in the outcome of projects and policies in a collaborative environment. The traits of collaborative leaders can highly influence the success of the work that they are trying to accomplish. Many of those traits can be learned and put into practice in the pursuit of an online MPA program, thereby developing well-rounded and effective collaborative leaders.

Learn more about the UT Arlington online MPA program.


Edgette, F. (2015, August 12). Public Leadership and the Collaboration Imperative. Retrieved October 19, 2015, from

Center for Leadership Development Schedule at a Glance. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from

Collaboration is a hot trend for state & local governments – GovDelivery. (2013, March 19). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from

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