Developing the Next Generation of Federal Leadership

In order to increase personal and organizational effectiveness, federal agencies offer a robust array of leadership development training programs for emerging and current leaders. Leadership programs provide assessments, experiential exercises and tools needed to successfully understand new roles and responsibilities. With a decrease in discretionary funds, federal agencies may not be able to routinely send their employees and managers to these programs, leaving a potential gap between current and future skills.

Instead of formal training however, future leaders can use real-world experience and a range of activities to broaden their perspective, build networks that are critical to future success, and enable the transfer of institutional knowledge from experienced leaders. Several panel speakers at the 2012 HCMF Conference outlined steps their agencies had taken to develop a cadre of seasoned, thoughtful leaders-steps that can be easily replicated elsewhere.

Building Federal Leaders of Tomorrow

View All Employees as Potential Leaders: Foster the underlying organizational belief that every employee in your organization has the potential to be a leader. Encourage employees to create Individual Development Plans (IDP's) that include leadership development. Employees who see themselves as leaders from the beginning of their career will more likely embrace growth opportunities than those who do not see themselves as future leaders.

Identify Employees with Leadership Attributes Early-on: Managers need to provide opportunities to employees with leadership potential to help them decide if they want to be leaders. Opportunities include leading projects or initiatives, leading teams, making presentations to senior leaders, etc. Not only will employees have the opportunity to try out new skills and behaviors, but managers will be able to observe them in these situations and assess their promising leadership competencies.

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Provide Mentors: Mentors help employees choose experiences and activities that will help them develop leadership skills as they progress, either upwardly or laterally, in the organization. Mentors are typically not in an employee's chain of command; but they offer advice, insight, and encouragement to a less experienced person to help them grow professionally in the direction of his/her choice. Some organizations provide both formal mentorship programs and informal mentorship opportunities. In formal programs, employees and mentors are matched according to the skills needed by the employee; in informal mentoring relationships, the employee approaches a manager or leader who he/she believes will provide honest feedback and sound career guidance.

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Assign Inter- and Intra-agency Rotations: Provide rotational assignments within multiple internal organizations and short-term details to other agencies to increase employees' breadth of knowledge and develop a wider perspective about how different agencies achieve their mission.

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Create Communities of Practice (CoP) and Networks: Establish Communities of Practice (CoPs) and encourage networking activities within a cohort of peers within and across organizations. CoPs are a group of people who share a profession or interest in a common subject with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other and can develop professionally. Activities include reading assignments and discussion groups to widen employee's perspectives and provide new ways to address complex problems.

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Develop Internal Training Seminars: Provide first-line supervisory training and seminars on a variety of supervisory topics, e.g. holding difficult conversations. Managers can role play having difficult conversations with employees so they will be proactive with a troublesome employee rather than just avoiding the conversations all together.

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