Performance Leadership as an Agency’s Outcome

by David Paschane

Leadership as an Agency’s Outcome We often forget that the essence of an organization is its people. Public sector organizations are notorious for this oversight. If we expect them to be successful, innovative, and improve the organization, we need to focus on how we produce leaders and what we expect from the process. That being said, we should ask ourselves what kind of leadership matters?

From an organizational perspective, the most valuable leadership is “performance leadership,” the human skills and motivation that is continuously supported and reinforced by the organizational design. Its components include the individual’s commitment to understand organizational performance, the motivation to develop skills that align to organizational goals, and the choice to pursue performance improvement. When we see successful organizations in sports, civics, and business, we also see those who provide performance leadership—those with “skin in the game.” It is not just their dedication that causes the “wins,” it is the dedication of the organization to their performance leadership.

If public agencies ignore the responsibility to develop performance leaders, we are allowing the ugliness of bureaucracy to take over, the dehumanizing practices that make each person a “Cog in the Wheel.” Take a hard look at your agency….while most organizations have managers for routine activities, and some have leaders for future initiatives, few have leaders for lasting performance capabilities.

Are you a Performance Leader?

Is your agency developing performance leadership?

image credit: edublogs.org

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Managing BureaucratizationDavid Paschane, Ph.D.  is an Organizational Architect from the Washington D.C area. He is an Associate Research Professor at UMBC; Founder and Volunteer at Military Alumni Transition Career Headquarters (MATCH); the Director of Strategic Initiatives at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; and Government Editor for Innovation Excellence.


No comments

  1. I like the topic but would like to hear more about what is your definition of “Performance leadership”

  2. Great gut-check, David, for any leader in any business/industry/organization-type. Where did I spend my time this week?…Serving the system, navigating structure, monitoring rules and reports, and populating meetings, OR…leading performance by inspiring and orchestrating excellence?

  3. I like what you wrote here as it relates to content a client of mine writes about on his blog as well (https://www.govsupervisor.com). Thanks for sharing.

  4. David:

    Nice thoughts, but, at least in the U.S. federal government, there are a number of major roadblocks, some of which can be somewhat overcome and some of which will not, unless and/or until the U.S. gets a better system of budgeting.

    Start with the fact that administration turn over every 4 to 8 years and each new administration has different priorities and different ideas about how to get things done – both of which can wipe out the previous 4 to 8 years of performance leadership/progress (and frequently do). And even when a new administration does not completely wipe out the previous advances, the new leader (read Secretary of…) wants/requires different things (I personally have gone from a Stoplight reporting system to actual measures with stops and starts in between).

    Before we can have even semi-successful performance management, there needs to be a complete culture change where to where first and foremost, leaders/supervisors are rewarded for creating and actually implementing a system where employees are encouraged to continue to improve their skills and where they are not afraid to take risks, a culture that does not punish risk failure, and a culture that promotes and seeks out employee input. This culture needs to be one where the first thing that gets axed is NOT employee training and development, one (starting at Congress) that does not use a meat axe to cut budgets where a scalpel would be more effective. And of course this culture needs support from the President, Congress and OMB, where agencies can strategically plan at least 3 years down the road, where agencies can actually institute true succession planning and career development without the cries of favoritism, etc., and where rather than just collecting reports, OMB supplies needed direction (if anyone remember the old NPR, there was actually an agency that provided the technical training and tools to help agencies succeed.

  5. I agree with Steve’s notion of environmental change. As a new federal employee coming from 20+ years in the nonprofit sector, I’ve run into a similar issue even though “agility” is touted as a base ideal of my unit.

    One issue that needs to be addressed, IMO, is the separation of leadership from personality; or perhaps more precisely, from leadership taking things personally. Protocol (unwritten rules that hinder development of effectiveness and efficiency and sometimes present as willy-nilly) and leadership promoting idea development only to squash it in the end to further their own ideas is a serious issue.

  6. Thank you for the great comments. I plan to build on these in my next blog. You have raised issues that are worthy of further discussion.

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