Developing a leadership mindset: Perspectives from a Preparing to Lead program participant

May 13, 2019

Richard Black works as a claims specialist for the Social Security Administration in Florence, Alabama, after having started out as an SSA customer service representative. Black is also a participant in the Partnership’s Preparing to Lead program, a development opportunity for GS-7 to GS-11 federal employees. We recently spoke with him about why it’s been a valuable experience so far.

Partnership: How has the program helped you become a better leader?

I’ve become more assertive since starting the program. I used to be much more reserved. Although I took on leadership roles outside of work really easily, within my agency I’ve struggled with jumping in to lead because the roles are so defined.

I’ve approached my management team to tell them I’ve learned valuable leadership skills that can benefit the people in my agency. Recently, I was selected for a regional program that gives me greater leadership responsibility within my current agency role. For example, I’ve been tasked with improving how work is organized and delegated in our office.

Partnership: What leadership skills or knowledge have you developed?

I’ve become more adaptable as a leader, and I’m making sure to focus my energy and effort on activities I can influence. I also have a greater understanding of how to advocate for myself within my management team, collaborate more effectively with my colleagues and be confident about leading them in the right direction.

I’ve learned how to become a more emotionally intelligent leader, that is, I’ve become more self-aware and developed true empathy for the people I lead.  The program teaches us to focus on situations that are within our control. That lesson has helped me conserve and use my energy more strategically. 

 This program is valuable beyond measure.

Partnership: What motivated you to apply in the first place?

I knew I would connect with peers in other parts of government that I probably never would have been able to connect with otherwise, and that has broadened my perspective on government and my role within it.

Partnership: Why would you recommend this program to a colleague?

The program helps participants become stronger leaders so they can ignite positive change within their agencies. It will help them improve their leadership strengths and identify new skills.