A Roadmap for Leadership Development

Unless you’re a crab and content to move sideways, you’ve probably thought about moving up at your job or in your career. But climbing the ladder can be tough—it’s competitive, and there’s only so much space on each rung.

One way to get a leg up on the competition is to follow the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) model. If you are applying for a position in the federal Senior Executive Service, ECQ proficiency is required. But regardless of what level of government you work in, the model can help you develop the resume and abilities of a leader.

During the NextGen online training, “What Are ECQs and Why Do They Matter?,” Arianne Gallagher, Esq., PMP, Director of the Presidential Management Fellows Program at OPM’s Center for Leadership Development, Federal Executive Institute, broke down the meaning of ECQs and how they can be used as a roadmap for professional development.

For the federal government, they’re meant to create a cadre of similarly qualified senior executives who can move seamlessly from one position to another. But they are not just for federal executives.

“Even if you’re not in federal service,” said Gallagher, “these competencies and qualifications are really universal.”

Gallagher started off with a helpful and concise overview of the ECQs and why they are used. The five ECQs are:

  1. Leading Change
  2. Leading People
  3. Results Driven
  4. Business Acumen
  5. Building Coalitions

By achieving proficiency in each of these five areas, one can demonstrate leadership and management ability. One of the keys to being successful in this, said Gallagher, is being able to present a compelling ECQ narrative with your resume and or in an interview.

For this, Gallagher recommends the STAR method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. In essence, you are encouraged to take notes on how you have practiced each particular ECQ on specific occasions throughout your career. This will help you keep track of your own development and identify areas of particular weakness and strength. It will also help you provide specific and relevant examples of your experience in each skill area when called upon to do so.

As an example of leadership preparation in government, Gallagher also shared her own insights from the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program, which is designed to give recent graduates hands-on experience in a government agency as they prepare for a potential leadership role. The PMF Leadership Development Program Journey Model can be a helpful way to organize your growth as a leader.

If you’re looking for leadership positions across government, said Gallagher, you really have to ask yourself whether you want to be a manager and supervisor. Technical skills can be important, but by seeking out a leadership role, you are committing to work on your personnel and organizational management skills.

If leadership is something you’re interested in, or even if you simply want a comprehensive roadmap for your professional development, ECQs can be the guide that you are looking for.


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