What innovative fed leaders have in common

By John Buckner
Federal News Radio

A report by the Partnership for Public Service points to examples of innovation in government, despite budget constraints and a culture of “do more with less.”

The report – entitled “Leading Innovation in Government” – points out the attributes in federal employees that can foster innovation in the workplace.

For the report, PPS interviewed current innovators in government and connected common attributes among them to determine a set of standards for hiring future employees.


“We discovered committed civil servants—patriotic stewards who understand how to overcome hurdles, shape and articulate a vision, and create a path and environment for accomplishing it,” according to the report.

PPS identified nine common attributes that contribute to innovation:

  • Patriotic Steward
  • Self aware learner
  • Visionary
  • Navigator
  • Relationship Builder
  • Collaborator
  • Team Leader
  • Teacher/Mentor
  • Team Builder

The report states that these attributes may not come naturally but can be developed through a commitment between workers and managers.

PPS also took each of these attributes and listed four levels of behavior within them.

As part of being a visionary, PPS said that employees should be able to understand the current state of the agency to clarify a vision. Then, they should refine the vision, evaluate the vision and determine a path forward.

Team leaders are able to communicate the team purpose, solicit team need and ideas, supports the team and foster innovation in the team environment.

PPS said agencies sometimes hinder innovation through lack of an idea process, limited communication and funding as well as fostering a system that rewards the status quo.

PPS’s report said agencies should support innovation by helping current and emerging leaders develop these attributes. Also, agencies should hire senior executives, fill managerial positions and shape management styles all based on these nine qualities.

“Federal innovation leaders stand out from their private-sector counterparts because of their ability to drive innovation despite complex processes, competing agendas, deep hierarchies and static cultures that can stifle even the most insignificant collaboration and risk-let alone real innovation,” said PPS in their report.

John Buckner is an intern with Federal News Radio.


Gov innovation requires new ways of thinking (Interview with PPS’ Tim McManus)

Gov innovation requires optimism, failing in small ways (Interview with IDEO’s Fred Dust)

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