Effective leadership is essential for the success and productivity of any organization, including federal agencies. Recognizing the importance of cultivating strong leaders, various training and development opportunities are available to federal employees. These programs aim to enhance leadership skills, promote professional growth, and empower individuals to make a positive impact within their agencies.
Though in my experience effective leaders and leadership were a very tough find in the federal sector, I will explore the leadership training and development opportunities that federal employees can leverage to unlock their leadership potential.
Leadership Training Resources for Federal Employees
The Federal Executive Institute (FEI) provides comprehensive leadership training programs for federal employees at the executive level. FEI offers both live and online courses focusing on topics such as strategic leadership, change management, decision-making, and organizational effectiveness. These programs are designed to equip senior federal leaders with the skills and knowledge needed to navigate complex challenges and drive positive change within their agencies.
Federal agencies often establish Leadership Development Programs (LDPs) to identify and develop high-potential employees for future leadership roles. These programs provide participants with a structured curriculum, mentoring, networking opportunities, and hands-on experience in various aspects of agency operations. LDPs aim to groom emerging leaders by providing them with the necessary skills, knowledge, and exposure to effectively lead teams and manage complex projects.
Many federal agencies offer their own leadership training and development programs tailored to their unique needs and organizational culture. These programs often provide a range of leadership development opportunities, including workshops, seminars, coaching, and mentoring. Federal employees can explore internal resources, such as agency-specific leadership academies, to enhance their leadership capabilities within their respective agencies.
As challenged as my organization was at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I would highlight the excellent leadership development programs available for both mid-level (GS11 – GS13) and senior (GS14 – GS15) staff members who would look to either begin or enhance and broaden their skills. These programs were comprehensive, very well structured, relevant, and very well thought out.
For 11 years, the agency where I worked (NIH) was what I would describe as a wasteland when it came to leadership and leadership development, but fortunately, the agency saw the importance and potential of leadership development and invested a great deal of time, effort, and resources in putting together these various programs. It is likely that your organization has similar programs and opportunities.
The Center for Leadership Development (OPM) offers training and resources specifically designed for federal employees. CLD focuses on cultivating core leadership competencies, including effective communication, conflict resolution, strategic thinking, and team building. Their programs combine classroom instruction, experiential learning, and practical application to equip federal employees with the skills required to excel in leadership roles.
Federal employees can take advantage of various online learning platforms that offer leadership courses and resources. Platforms such as the Federal Virtual Training Environment (FedVTE), Skillsoft, and LinkedIn Learning provide a wide range of leadership development courses accessible anytime, anywhere. These platforms cover various leadership topics, including emotional intelligence, coaching and mentoring, project management, and inclusive leadership.
Engaging with professional associations and attending leadership conferences can also contribute to leadership development for federal employees. These associations and conferences provide opportunities for networking, knowledge sharing, and learning from industry experts. Examples of relevant professional associations include the Federal Managers Association (FMA), the Senior Executives Association (SEA), and the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA).
The Importance of Leadership Training for Federal Employees
Investing in leadership training and development is crucial for federal employees to maximize their potential and contribute effectively to their agencies. By availing themselves of the various opportunities discussed above, federal employees can enhance their leadership skills, broaden their perspectives, and stay abreast of emerging trends and best practices. Whether through specialized institutes, agency-specific programs, online platforms, or professional associations, federal employees have a wealth of resources at their disposal to unlock their leadership potential and drive positive change within the federal government.
Another important point is that you, as an aspiring leader, must be your own advocate for your leadership development. An important first step in this is simply letting your supervisor know your interest and strong desire to grow and enhance your leadership knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Too often over the years, I assumed that my leadership knew and understood my aspirations and often missed out on training and development opportunities simply because nobody was looking out for them, and I was unaware until a deadline had passed. Let your leaders know and remind them of this at every opportunity, but beyond that, be active in finding those opportunities for yourself.
It would be great if our leadership were looking out for us and just as great if leadership training and development were a priority across all organizations at all levels but that just isn’t the case. If you aspire to become a leader or simply enhance your leadership knowledge, skills, and abilities, you need to grab that figurative bull by the horns and ride it for all it is worth.
Your supervisor or other leadership might or might not support your efforts, but no matter what, your growth and development is first and foremost your responsibility. Where you go from here is up to you and that is no matter what or who is standing in your way.
Leadership can be a long and lonely road. A better you is waiting, just on the other side.