Finding the confidence to lead in the public sector: Dan Croucher

Image of three men smiling with Dan Croucher in the middle
  • Published Date: 11 June 2019

Picking up everything and moving from South Australia to the ACT is no easy decision.

But when Dan Croucher made the move to Canberra, for a role in the Federal Government as Assistant Director, Strategic Engagement, for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, it’s one he made with confidence.

It’s something that might not have been the case if he hadn’t completed ANZSOG’s Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA)in 2017/18. He could have kept doing a version of what he’d done for the last 15 years in the state government.

It was time for a new role and before the EMPA, I might have been cautious, rather than being bold and up for risk taking, such as moving cities,” he said.

Dan says the EMPA not only gave him confidence for developing his career along potentially new pathsbut also boosted his belief in his established ways of operating as a public sector leader. Plus, it revealed new strategies, methods and views that he’s absorbed into his work.

In group work and in the core subjects, the EMPA requires you to work with people from different roles, different states, different jurisdictions, and different levels of government as well,” he said. “That mosaic of insights and experience gives you a holistic picture that is really nice.

During the program, there is the ability to interact with people from a whole bunch of different frames of reference. Even when you’re talking in the networking sessions between formal lectures or the dinners, there’s always something about the way somebody else does their work that you can bring in to help your style be better. You see people take your experiences and insights away to help them be better too, which is really rewarding.

The EMPA was good at validating a lot of what I did. I thought I was doing the right thing in my job and my leadership and so there was lots of stuff where I sat down and went, yeah, I am doing alright.

Looking back at his career, Dan said most of his work had been project based, building teams to deliver a specific outcome. It was while he was acting in a more senior role, that included career development planning and a mentor, that it was suggested he consider the EMPA.

“That was the primary reason, to get some long overdue development,” he said. “My mentor said I should probably get out, lift my eyes and do a field of study that encompasses a range of things, not just operational stuff; something that looked at legislation, regulations, policy settings and leadership. I was keen to explore the ability to dabble more in social policy and social programs – things about humans a bit more, rather than water, fish and frogs, as a way of describing it.”

Now he is in that role, working within the Murray-Darling Authority’s engagement team, communicating with affected communities about the basin plan, and settling into the national capital, along with his two teenage boys and his wife, who is a teacher.

When that time came last year for Dan to spread his wings, he was moved by the way his EMPA cohort swung into action, to help him find a bold new role to really test him and offer the change he needed. “I really felt that I had these people around me,” he said. “It was really heart-warming the way they looked out for me, off the back of doing the program together,” he said. “I might not have looked to Canberra without their ideas and confidence. It’s been great.”

In fact, he highly recommends the EMPA to fellow public sector leaders, even signing up as an ANZSOG Alumni Ambassadorto assist the next generation of EMPA participants in their journey.

“It’s a wonderful course and there are some really important elements that people forget when they are bum up and head down in the day to day.

“I’m very supportive of anybody in the public sector that needs to develop themselves to do it.”

Express your interest for 2021 Executive Master of Public Administration