Leadership is the most important factor influencing employee satisfaction and commitment, and ultimately, employee performance. It is also one of the most poorly rated workplace categories for our federal government. On a scale of 100 in a survey of federal employees, respondents gave a score of only 54.9 for “effective leadership.” The poor results should come as no surprise when you consider the environment.
Agencies’ senior-most leaders tend to be politically appointed, and serve average tenures of only 18 months to two years. They are rewarded for short-term policy gains, and lack the time and incentive to tackle the long-term, systemic challenges facing our government’s workforce.
Senior career leaders, members of the Senior Executive Service, too often are promoted for their technical expertise rather than their ability to manage people and drive results. Investments in training and developing our nation’s civilian executives are anemic compared to the uniformed military or high-performing, private-sector organizations.
Today, some 4,000 political appointees and 7,000 members of the Senior Executive Service set the tone for a federal workforce of 2.1 million. By increasing the leadership skills of our nation’s senior-most executives—political or career—we can change the culture of government so that leaders empower their employees, measure progress, hold people accountable and deliver results.
Our Center for Government Leadership equips federal leaders to deliver results by inspiring employees, building teams focused on excellence and innovation, and working across boundaries. Mirroring trends among top companies, our leadership programs—such as our Excellence in Government Fellows program—provide a combination of coursework, collaborative projects, executive coaching, and benchmark visits to some of our nation’s most respected organizations across sectors to improve government’s leadership capacity.
Recognizing how closely linked organizational performance is to employee engagement and strong leadership, the Partnership recently began targeted collaborations with individual agencies in addition to offering government-wide programs. This past year, for example, the Partnership launched a joint, three-and-a-half year effort with the U.S. Department of Education to transform its leadership and build a more innovative, collaborative and results-oriented department.
To improve government’s leadership at the highest levels, we conducted research and used the findings to encourage legislation requiring the government to provide assistance to major presidential candidates prior to the election so that the eventual winner would be better prepared to govern, and be able to more quickly put leadership teams in place.
The Partnership for Public Service is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to revitalize our federal government by inspiring a new generation to serve and by transforming the way government works.