Core Competencies of a Public Works Leader

The American Public Works Association (APWA) encourages the Public Works community, its professionals, practitioners, policy makers and decision makers at all levels of government, to demonstrate these core competencies:

  • Plans for the Future
    • Values Municipal Planning & Development
    • Uses Strategic Planning
    • Facilitates Organizational Development
    • Incorporates Sustainability
    • Formulates Policy
    • Partners in Emergency Management
  • Leads an Organization
    • Develops a Shared Vision
    • Defines Mission • Leads Development of Organization Values
    • Instills Ethical Conduct
    • Creates a Diverse Organization
    • Maintains a Continuous Growth Environment
    • Celebrates Success
  • Communicates
    • Communicates in Writing
    • Communicates Verbally
    • Makes Presentations
    • Sells Ideas
    • Uses new media
  • Builds Relationships and Partnerships
    • Reaches out to:
      • Citizens – Elected Officials
      • Peers
      • Labor Organizations
      • Media
      • Shareholders to Leverage Resources
  • Manages Staff
    • Participates in Recruitment & Selection
    • Facilitates Training & Coaching
    • Understands Conflict Resolution
    • Focuses on Safety
  • Manages Information
    • Uses Technology
    • Understands Systems
    • Utilizes Work Measurement
  • Manages Money and Resources
    • Understands Budgeting
    • Understands Finance
    • Uses Creative Leveraging of Resources
    • Understands Grant Administration
    • Moves Money through Financial Systems
  • Manages Infrastructure
    • Understands:
      • Fleet & Equipment
      • Municipal Facilities
      • Parks, Grounds & Forestry
      • Potable Water Distribution
      • Stormwater & Flood Management
      • Streets, Sidewalks & Structures
      • Wastewater Collection & Disposal
      • Other Infrastructure
  • Manages Municipal Services
    • Understands:
      • Capital Improvement Programs
      • Engineering
      • Emergency Management
      • Snow Removal
      • Solid Waste Removal
      • Street Cleaning
      • Transportation
      • Other Municipal Services

This informational list was compiled by the APWA Leadership and Management Committee. This list is not all inclusive but represents a general summary of core competencies that Public Works leaders need to demonstrate to lead high performing organizations.

Core Responsibilities of a Public Works Leader

The American Public Works Association (APWA) encourages the Public Works community, its professionals, practitioners, policy makers and decision makers at all levels of government, to exercise leadership in the following areas:

  • Asset Management. The infrastructure we are charged to develop and maintain is crucial to the health, welfare and prosperity of our citizens. Our fundamental responsibility is to insure that infrastructure is well maintained and that life cycle planning is used, so that our communities never experience catastrophic failure or costs.
  • Sustainability. We must always consider the environmental, social and economic impacts of our actions. New development must meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. Because of our responsibility for infrastructure, we must become leaders in advocating that our actions be sustainable.
  • Community Involvement/Transparency. Public Works cannot be effective without community support. To obtain this support, we must take special care to explain our actions to our communities. Decisions made without public involvement generate suspicion. Public Works leaders need to support “Sunshine Laws” and other approaches to transparency.
  • Emergency Response. Public Works is the first to respond and the last to leave in most emergency situations. We must be ready to minimize injury and damage in any disaster by working with our partners in public safety. Additionally, we must be ready to quickly and efficiently restore the infrastructure on which our communities rely.
  • Professionalism. A Public Works leader always conforms to ethical and professional conduct, serving in the role with integrity and respect by following APWA’s Standards of Professional Conduct.
  • Professional Development. In the spirit of lifelong learning, we must aggressively seek opportunities to pursue higher education and to train ourselves and our subordinates in leadership and management. This includes promoting credentialing of public works professionals.
  • Ethics. Public trust in our institutions and agencies is critical to gaining and retaining support from the public. This is critical to our mission. Our community and colleagues in Public Works suffer if we engage in improper activities. We must maintain the highest ethical behavior to insure our success, as well as the success of our profession.
  • Succession Planning. In addition to our responsibility for developing and maintaining infrastructure, we must assure the continued success of our organizations. To do this, we must invest in our employees to provide a seamless transition when they assume leadership roles.

This informational list was compiled by the APWA Leadership and Management Committee. This list is not all inclusive but represents a general summary of core responsibilities that Public Works leaders need to demonstrate to lead high performing organizations.

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