Government has a problem with attracting senior leadership, promoting the right people to lead and providing those leaders with the right development opportunities, according to a recent survey by Deloitte and the Senior Executives Association.
The survey, “State of Senior Career Leadership,” includes the responses of more than 750 federal leaders and found that many respondents are anxious to see improvements in their agencies’ leadership capabilities.
Less than a quarter of the survey’s respondents said that their agency is prepared to retain top talent, while only 27 percent agreed that their agency has a plan to attract top talent from outside the government. For those leaders chosen from within an agency’s ranks, only 35 percent of respondents believe that those leaders are selected for their ability to inspire teams.
Some of these problems may come down to a lack of proper training, as only 44 percent of respondents said there is a strategy to develop career senior leadership, and only 36 percent of leadership said their development needs are taken into account at their agency.
“Federal leaders are being asked to change the way they think and operate to drive transformation in their individual agencies,” said Bill Valdez, president of SEA. “While the survey results show how deeply career senior leaders care about their organizations, many leaders do not feel empowered with the right tools and support to make these changes a reality.”
In the face of administrative pressure to modernize IT systems through the May Cybersecurity Executive Order and American Technology Council’s Report to the President on Federal IT Modernization, less than half of senior leadership said they are equipped with the digital skills necessary to enhance the federal government. And only half of respondents believed their agency was considering how the future workforce may impact their work.
“Leadership skills are needed to drive innovative problem solving, but technology at my agency is still stuck in the 1990s and early 2000s,” an anonymous respondent said.
Respondents were also skeptical of their collaborative abilities across senior leadership, as 96 percent believed they are accountable for promoting collaboration within their teams but only 28 percent believed there were systems in place to promote cross-leadership collaboration.
“This report arms our most senior federal government leaders with actionable data and practical recommendations to address the challenges they face while overseeing their organizations’ critical missions,” said Sean Morris, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP and federal human capital leader.
The survey recommended agencies work to improve the strength of their leadership pipelines, promote executive readiness and enable transformational leadership to address the problems facing career senior leadership.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.