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Certificate Program in Public Sector Leadership and Governance

Meeting the need for public sector executive development.

Effective countries depend on quality public service

Like all advanced countries, Canada relies on well-designed and competently administered government policies, programs and services for the effective functioning of its economy and society. While politicians decide on the direction and tone of government action, it is public servants who support them in shaping policy and delivering services.

Globalization and unprecedented population mobility, growing demands for inclusion and declining trust in institutions require public service leaders who can marshal resources and leverage rapidly changing technology so that Canada remains in the front ranks of advanced societies. In the Certificate Program in Public Sector Leadership and Governance, our aims are to foster in leaders an awareness of this complex and dynamic world and build a mature capacity to learn and adapt constantly despite the daily frenzy.

These challenges, and many others, are occurring while experienced public service leaders continue to retire in historically high numbers. New leaders are challenged to step up quickly and make sense of today’s crises and the longer-term issues that lie beneath the surface. We understand that few senior executives will take up their roles with all the knowledge and skills they need to thrive and succeed in this world. We see our challenge as providing an environment in which senior leaders can prepare themselves for the greater responsibilities that come with top public service positions.  

The Certificate Program in Public Sector Leadership and Governance

This Program is designed to accelerate the development of promising senior public service leaders who need to broaden and deepen if they are to lead effectively in a complex and dynamic world.

Each autumn, a Cohort of 30-40 participants begins an about 20-month journey of learning and discovery at the University of Ottawa’s Odell House, home of the Centre on Public Management and Policy and part of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs within the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Social Sciences. While most participants come from the federal public service, executives from Crown corporations, provincial or municipal public services, or the private sector, will also benefit from the Program, and make the learning experience richer for all.

The Certificate Program has two parts: the first focuses on public sector management and governance, and the second on the world and Canada’s place in it. Both parts emphasize leadership and the good use of evidence in shaping advice and action. We also incorporate topics of accelerating importance, such as Technological Change and Indigenous Reconciliation.

The Program concerns itself throughout with the key leadership competencies identified by the federal Treasury Board Secretariat (2016): the ability to create vision and strategy, to mobilize people, uphold integrity and respect; collaborate with partners and stakeholders; achieve results, and promote innovation and guide change. Our goal is to provide a learning environment in which participants can prepare themselves to assume greater responsibility at the levels of Assistant Deputy Minister or Director-General, or their equivalents.

Our Program is practical, not academic. There are no exams, marks or degrees. What we emphasize is “how things really work.” Because this priceless tacit knowledge is seldom written, we probe it through conversation with exceptional practitioners who generously share what their experience has taught them. We understand that these insights have many different facets, and our sessions offer multiple overlapping perspectives on executive leadership in the public sector. By the end of the program, we find that participants have internalized the crucial principles, in effect, the “accumulated wisdom”.

Background to the Certificate Program

In January 2007, the University of Ottawa launched its Certificate Program in Public Sector Leadership and Governance, following consultations by David Zussman, Jarislowsky Chair in Public Sector Management, with federal Deputy Ministers. The Program was designed to address the above challenges by helping to prepare emerging public sector leaders to assume greater responsibility as older seasoned executives retire in increasing numbers.

Since then, over 400 participants in Cohorts I to XVI have successfully completed the Program. Further cohorts will be launched each autumn.

For more information about the program, please download our certificate program prospectus. (PDF, 2.56 MB)