The outgoing spy boss has called for a college dedicated to training budding public servants and preparing them to protect against attempts to politicise the bureaucracy.
ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis, who will depart the role this week, told bureaucrats on Wednesday an apolitical public service was a "precious jewel" that needed preserving.
Mr Lewis, speaking at an Institute of Public Administration event in Canberra, said it was "passing odd" there was no dedicated public service college in Australia.
He said he had been worried bureaucrats did not always receive the same level of training and education as given to military recruits for their roles.
"This is no reflection whatsoever on current APS training systems or training staff, but I must conclude that we could do better," Mr Lewis said.
"We have schools and colleges and universities that cater for public sector training and education but we do not have a highly credentialled, renowned, respected and dedicated public service college for one of the largest workforces in the country."
Mr Lewis said the nation should consider developing its public servants in a more deliberate way.
"This sort of training may support public service leaders in better managing the attempted politicisation that we all face from time to time," he said.
"It helps you nuance some of those circumstances and those situations."
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The former diplomat and military commander said an apolitical public service was no accident.
"It needs to be nurtured and defended. This is a complex and sometimes highly nuanced matter and we need to be specifically schooled and prepared to respectfully hold our ground."
Mr Lewis urged public service leaders to "know your people", set the right atmosphere, learn how to negotiate, and adopt a studied and infectious calmness during moments of high pressure.
He said he had at times been appalled to witness some leaders put themselves first and warned of those who managed upwards.
"It is my view that our community needs to pay far more attention to a group of leaders who make upward management an art form. They are worryingly common and not routinely called out," he said.
"This genre of leader doesn't invest in an organisation, they draw down on their available credit and leave a diminished organisational balance sheet for their successors."