< Growing Leaders
Growing Leaders for the Government
How do leaders develop? The resources on this page discuss the role of
experience in forging character and leadership skills, as well as the
importance of mentors, training, and reflection.
Mother Teresa was renowned for her selfless dedication to the poorest of
the poor. Her approach has some surprising lessons for how government
agencies should deliver services--and grow leaders for the public
Lists of competencies
(like the Executive Core Competencies) are hard to remember and
generally fail to acknowledge that some competencies are more important
than others. Drawing on insights from his 35 years of government
service and his 13 additional years as a teacher, coach and mentor to
public sector leaders, Ray Blunt provides us with an excellent overview
of the most important things that effective public leaders do.
The trappings of success tend to motivate many people to aspire to positions
of leadership. But what if you get there and don't like all the baggage that
comes with such "success?" Ray Blunt explores this issue in this column for GovLeaders.org.
Highly successful leaders are at risk for developing
, which in
turn can lead them to failure of varying degrees. In this column for GovLeaders.org, Ray
Blunt discusses this cycle, how it happens, and how was can use
reflection,. self-awareness and mentors to maintain our humility and
from taking hold.
Research by the Center for Creative Leadership indicates that varied and
challenging assignments represent the single greatest source of
leadership learning. In this Q&A with GovLeaders.org, author
Cynthia McCauley (Developmental
Assignments: Creating Learning Experiences without Changing Jobs
discusses several different types of developmental assignments, how to get
them, and how to ensure they are truly developmental.
Public service is a high calling. So why don't more of us have a
clear picture as to what it is we have been called to do? In his
latest column for GovLeaders.org, Ray Blunt walks us through the process
of developing a life mission statement.
In this Q&A with GovLeaders.org, Gene Klann of the Center for Creative
Leadership discusses his recent book
Building Character: Strengthening the
Heart of Good Leadership
. He discusses the importance
of stretch assignments and job rotations, and suggests how government
agencies can train leaders of character despite shrinking budgets.
He also asserts that setting a positive leadership example is "the
highest form of leadership" because people tend to imitate the behaviors
they see in their leaders.
New leaders have many challenges to confront, but one of their most
important tasks is to make some strategic decisions about what they want
to accomplish in life and how they want to spend their time. Ray
Blunt observes that these choices will be made one way or another
(whether it is an active or passive process), but it is far batter to
make conscious choices that will lead to a true leadership legacy.
Most of us have worked with (or for) self-promoters who seem to put
their own advancement ahead of the interests of the organization. We
cringe at the idea of self-promotion, but is it really possible to
advance our careers without drawing attention to our accomplishments?
That is the dilemma Ray Blunt addresses in his latest column for
Thomas Jefferson and William Wilberforce had a great deal in common
early in their lives--up to the point in their nascent political careers when
they each sponsored unsuccessful legislation to abolish slavery. Their
lives then took different paths. Wilberforce, one of Britain's most
brilliant politicians of the early 19th Century, sacrificed his political
ambitions to persist in a difficult--and ultimately successful-- 40-year
struggle to end the slave trade and slavery in England and its colonies.
Jefferson went on to the Presidency and ended up supporting compromises that
extended slavery. Why didn't Jefferson persist in the fight against
slavery? Why did Wilberforce? Ray Blunt argues that answer lies with
their early mentors, who had a key role in shaping their respective worldviews.
In his fifth column for GovLeaders.org, Ray Blunt comments on how the
increased emphasis on individualism in American society may be undermining our
sense of community--and impacting leadership behaviors in unexpected ways.
Includes the inspiring story of a community in Nebraska that banded together to
feed every troop train that passed through during World War II. His
arguments run counter to commonly held beliefs about one person being able to
change the world.
Over a two-year period, the
Public Sector Consortium
(at the time known as the High Performing Federal Agencies Community of
Practice) developed a series of systems maps that illustrate the kinds of
leadership dilemmas faced by public managers in a democratic society.
For example, the need to show short-term results for a new administration
tends to reward command-and-control leadership styles and complicates
efforts to define a clear mission for an agency. The Consortium
developed the maps to help leaders and the professionals who design
leadership development programs to engage in dialogue about the systems and
structures in their own organizations. The intention is to create
opportunities for organizations to create the structures and systems that
support quality public sector leadership. The Public Sector Consortium also now offers training courses of
its own, the
Organizational Learning Curriculum for Leaders
for more information. Article used by GovLeaders.org with
the kind permission of the the Public Sector
In his April 2006 column for
GovLeaders.org, Ray Blunt asserts that not enough government agencies focus
on the leadership development activities with the highest impact: challenging,
work-based experiences and significant interaction with senior leaders.
"Leaders learn to lead," he says, "in the classroom of experience with senior
In Ray Blunt's February 2006 column he observes that many government
organizations are too quick to emulate the "Best Practices" of top-tier
companies and agencies. In many cases, what works for one organization may
not be compatible with the culture--or needs--of another. In designing a
leadership development program, he asserts, it's essential to start with five
basic principles as a framework. Four of those principles require leaders
to take responsibility for growing other leaders.
In his second column for GovLeaders.org, Ray Blunt discusses the need for
courage in public organizations. Employees in most organizations wish
for--but rarely have--leaders with the courage to make tough decisions,
speak the truth about performance, and speak truth to power. Mr. Blunt
describes several steps leaders can take to foster courage in their
this column, his first in a series for GovLeaders.org, Ray Blunt introduces the
key elements of a successful leadership development program and asks us to
ponder why it's so hard to find time for developing the next generation of
The manner in which senior leaders lead the leaders who report to them
has a tremendous impact on organizational effectiveness and innovation.
All too often, senior leaders punish their direct reports for making mistakes or
try to control their areas of responsibility. This article from the July
2005 Gallup Management Journal Outlines several key practices that senior
leaders can implement to unleash the talents of their leadership team.
Reprinted by GovLeaders.org with the kind permission of the Gallup Organization.
This very thoughtful essay by
Eliot A. Cohen touches on many aspects of leadership, including
cross-cultural leadership, military leadership, and the "dark side of
leadership." It also includes a number of excellent stories and some
recommendations for non-traditional sources of leadership insights.
Originally published in the 2002 issue of SAISPHERE
, this article
was reprinted here with the kind permission of the author and the Paul
Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins
Servant leader Ray Blunt has found that one of the greatest challenges
we face in government is how to develop leaders of character. As
Abraham Lincoln once observed, "if you really want to test a man's
character, give him power." In this insightful article from the
Winter 2003-2004 issue of
The Public Manager
Blunt describes three "character courses," activities that leaders and
aspiring leaders can pursue to cultivate their leadership--and their
character at the same time. These include reflective work that
results in a guiding life purpose or mission; learning from the life and
experiences of mentors; and being part of a community of practice that
learns together and holds each other accountable. Highly recommended.
Posted by GovLeaders.org with the kind permission of the publisher.
This exceptionally useful report by Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo
explains how a person who
works exclusively in staff jobs throughout a career is less likely to
develop important leadership competencies than a person who works
exclusively in line jobs. Includes a number of specific
examples of the kinds of work assignments that can have the biggest
impact on a staff manager's leadership development. Highly useful
for both manager's who are interested in developing their leadership
skills as well as leaders who want to develop their people. The
four-part excerpt is reproduced here with the kind consent of
The Center of Creative Leadership
This document combines two outstanding reports that Ray Blunt wrote for
the IBM Center for the
Business of Government
. In "Leaders Growing Leaders: Preparing
the Next Generation of Public Service Executives," Blunt describes the
vital role that senior government executives must play in developing the
next generation of leaders. He includes vivid case studies of three
senior executives who successfully cultivated the leadership skills of
their people by being good exemplars, mentors, coaches and teachers.
In "Organizations Growing Leaders: Best Practices and Principles in the
Public Service," Blunt profiles five U.S. Government agencies that have
implemented successful leadership development programs. He
explains what the successful programs have in common--and what that
means for agencies that aspire to growing their own leaders.
The U.S. Marine Corps has one of the best leadership development
programs of any organization in America. Starting with raw
recruits, they cultivate leadership skills at all levels of the
organization. This has been vital to the Marines Corps' ability to
be the fast and flexible force that it is. Inc.
magazine first published this excellent article by David Freedman about how the
Marines develop leaders in April 1998. For many more good articles on
management, see Inc.
on-line section on
Leadership and Managing
The first few months in a new leadership position are absolutely
critical to a leader's success in that position, argues Michael Watkins
in the April 15, 2004, issue of Government Executive Magazine
Watkins, outlines seven common traps that leaders fall into during the
transition period that can seriously undermine their chances of success.
This article is based on Watkins' new book,
The First 90 Days:
Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels
According to Bob Behn, top-down administrative "fixes" designed to
enhance government performance never work as designed because they
fail to account for the human factor. Administrative fixes assume that
organizations can work well on autopilot when, in reality, the
government's programs are accomplished by people--not by systems.
So the most effective way to improve performance, he argues, is to help
front-line supervisors develop the leadership skills they need to
drive performance to higher levels.
Professor Behn makes several excellent suggestions for how to do this.
This excerpt from the book For the People: Can We Fix Public Service?
is reprinted here by the kind permission of
The Brookings Institution Press
from Science News
magazine describes how three companies underwent
remarkable transformations after putting employees through an intense
two-day simulation designed by psychologist Lia DiBello. On the
first day, the simulation made the employees take their normal
ways of doing business to their logical extreme--and causing them to fail. The failure on day one
generated a tremendous amount of learning and caused the employees to
find new and better ways of doing things--much to the benefit of their
organizations. Some great insights here.
Linda A. Hill, the best managers are those who are committed to lifelong
self-improvement. This article, an excerpt from Hill's book
Becoming a Manager: How New Managers Master the Challenge of Leadership
suggests ways for managers to identify the right kinds of development
assignments for their specific situations. One of many excellent
articles available from
This article provides a taste of the
kinds of leadership stories Michael Useem covers in his book
Includes a number of compelling examples of upward
leadership--both good and bad and suggests a number of strategies
that executives can implement to encourages employees to
help keep their bosses on the right track.
Subordinates have a key role to play
in helping their supervisors improve their leadership skills, argues Ira Chaleff in this terrific article. Rather than complain about the
faults of our superiors, we all have a responsibility to help them
leverage their strengths and address any fatal flaws they may have.
Chaleff observes that those who go to the trouble of cultivating
relationships of trust with their superiors and then offer honest
feedback to them can make a huge impact on the quality of
leadership in their organizations.
superb article by Len Schlesinger describes the three most common kinds of
bad bosses (he calls them the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin
Man) and how working for each type can be a golden opportunity for highly
competent subordinates. This article was first published in the June 1996 issue of
James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, authors of the classic book,
The Leadership Challenge
published this article in the Spring 2003 issue of Leader to Leader
They argue here that difficult challenges represent the most powerful force
for developing great leaders. They also discuss how to approach
challenges in a way that will maximize leadership learning. See
the Leader to Leader Institute's
Full-Text Article List
for a wealth of other good articles on
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