Gov Should Hire & Promote More “Moses Managers”


All employees want great managers, yet not everyone is fortunate enough to enjoy that luxury. But what really makes an awesome manager?

Some people say that an inclusive and positive can-do management style is best to promote leadership and productivity. Others argue it’s more effective for a manager to use fear tactics to get results and keep employees efficient. So what’s the answer?

This is the last post of a five-part series on public sector priorities for 2015. My recommended Priority #5:

Hire and Promote More “Moses Managers” (as I call them).

Prior posts focus on strengthening cybersecurity (#1), fostering workforce diversity (#2), implementing work flexibility programs (#3) and leveraging social media (#4).

FEVS Portrays Problems

It’s evident from recent Federal Employee Viewpoint Surveys (FEVS) that too many feds have sagging morale and low overall job satisfaction.

This is unfortunate because such sentiments are surely detrimental to boosting mission-driven performance and productivity.

The root of this problem may stem in part from bad managers who trample office morale and make an employee’s work-life unpleasant — if not miserable — through favoritism, bullying, harassment, discrimination and retaliation, among other things.

These bad managers give government a bad name. They also negatively impact employee engagement and may increase absenteeism. Moreover, if Uncle Sam wants to provide the best service to the American people then government must foster diverse and inclusive work environments where all employees can reach their full potential based on merit, talent and ability.

Therefore, the “Moses manager” is an invaluable asset to the government and the public it serves.

So what defines a “Moses manager” other than performing “miracles” in crisis situations?

Moses 10 Commandments of the “Moses Manager”

The “Moses manager” possesses some or all of the following 10 traits (or “commandments”   as I call them):
1. Thou shall be positive, energetic, upbeat and radiate leadership.
2. Thou shall be quick to praise staff and listen to their ideas, good and bad alike.
3. Thou shall be professional in appearance, mannerisms and actions (no discrimination, retaliation, etc.).

4. Thou shall recognize the important role on the team played by every individual.
5. Thou shall encourage out-of-the box thinking to spark creativity and innovation.
6. Thou shall reject ineffective, entrenched and antiquated bureaucratic procedures which  hinder productivity.
7. Thou shall be humble, modest, accessible (“open door” policy) and mentor staff for advancement.
8. Thou shall take ownership of failures, rather than casting blame, and perform “miracles” in crises.
9. Thou shall recognize and reward staff for exemplary performance, productivity and results.
10. Thou shall maximize work flexibility (telework, alternate schedules, etc.) to enhance employees’ work/life balance, which boosts morale and accountability,  productivity and job satisfaction.

The Takeaway

Results of a “Moses manager” include, but are not limited to, increased performance and productivity, greater employee engagement and accountability, higher morale and overall job satisfaction, as well as more organizational loyalty.

In short, this is exactly what government needs more of, especially considering that many agencies continue to operate under severe fiscal austerity measures.

That’s why public sector agencies should make recruitment, hiring and advancement of “Moses managers” a top priority in 2015. This is a winning strategy for agencies, employees, and the public alike.

What do YOU think?
• Have you ever had a “Moses manager”?
• If so, what were the results?
• On the flipside, have you ever had a malicious manager?
• If so, how did that turn out?



NOTE: All views and opinions are those of the author only and not official statements or endorsements of any public sector employer, private sector employer, organization or political entity.

David B. Grinberg is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Terrence (Terry) Hill

Great post, especially your 10 commandments. I have never experienced a supervisor that fits this Moses profile, but I think you have all the right ingredients. Too bad that none of these are evaluated because we don’t have any feedback system for employees to evaluate their supervisor’s sins. Saved to my Instapaper!

David B. Grinberg

Terry, great hearing from you, as always! Thanks so much for your valuable feedback. I’m wondering how many of the 10 traits (“commandments”) you’ve experienced in any one manager in your gov career? More or less than half? Thanks again, kind sir.

Carolee Walker

Great post, David! This pretty much captures what I believe, too. The only point I would add is that great managers recognize that they are the ones who work for their employees, not the other way around. Great managers ensure their employees have everything they need to succeed and recognize that managers are the most important resource for their employees. Great managers should expect to spend 80 percent of their time doing HR work, including fostering the careers of their employees.

David B. Grinberg

Carolee, thanks so much for sharing your important insights, with which I agree. In particular, mentoring and career advancement are important for managers, as you note, and should not be overlooked. I also like your point about great managers understanding that they work for the employees (in theory). Moreover, it’s likewise important for ALL government employees to remember that they work for the American people and should provide the best service possible — from executive management to rank-and-file workers. Thanks again for chiming in!

Lori Sassoon

Those are great qualities to seek in a manager. I also strongly believe that bad management is a management issue in itself – executives need to take responsibility and deal with those problematic managers in their work groups. They should either be coached out of negative behaviors and become positive and productive leaders, or they should be managed out of the organization through the appropriate disciplinary processes.

David B. Grinberg

Lori, your valuable views are appreciated — with which I concur. I’ve had malicious managers before and, unfortunately, it’s usually the case that management defends management. However, if one is persistent in speaking out and asserting their rights — and have coworkers to back them up — the egregious behavior of monster managers are more likely to be addressed

Matthew Garlipp

Very interesting and creative post, David. I’ve experienced a little bit of both. I’ve had an ineffective, micromanaging, and negative-minded manager. I’ve also been lucky enough to have great managers who exhibit many of the traits from your “10 Commandments” — especially 2, 4, 7, and 10. It is incredible how much of a difference your manager can make in your job satisfaction. So, I can’t agree more that it’s critical for gov to hire managers that are more in tune with the characteristics you’ve pointed out — especially if they’re attempting to recruit young and highly-skilled personnel.

David B. Grinberg

Matthew, thanks for sharing your valuable feedback. You raise several excellent points for which I’m sure many millennials would agree. The government workforce appears to be in a state of flux with millennial recruitment and hiring on one hand and an entrenched bureaucratic management structure on the other. Hopefully, more millennials will join public service and assume management positions. I think that’s the best hope we have for bring public service into the 21st century gov-wide. Lucky for you, “Moses managers” are plentiful at GovLoop!

Camilla Nawaz

Great post!! I think some people’s natural personalities, however, make it difficult for them to have these characteristics all the time, and that’s okay. We need people like this to be promoted, but we also need people outside of this type to be given opportunities. Check out the book Quiet!

David B. Grinberg

That’s an excellent point, Camilla. I will definitely check out the book. Your important insights are appreciated, as always.


Keep in mind no person trained Moses, he was just himself, and probably would not have been hired as a “Manager” under the current system. How can we hire or promote “Moses Managers”? What needs to change?

David B. Grinberg

Thanks for the valuable comments, Kyla. First, please note that the “Moses manager” reference is a creative analogy and is not meant to be taken literally. Second, what can we do to hire and promote more of these “Moses managers”? That’s a good question for OPM. However, one way is for hiring officials to more closely consider the FEVS results and more heavily weigh them when making hiring and advancement decisions. Another suggestion is for gov to provide more modern-day incentives to hire and promote a new generation of managerial leadership in today’s competitive global marketplace. It’s of critical importance to for gov to recognize the contemporary workplace is changing and the public sector workplace must change with it. Those with experience and proven results in managing a staff via work flexibility programs and new/evolving mobile, digital and virtual technologies is a must IMHO.


Nice post. While I don’t disagree that we need all the help we can get with good management, I think many of the management problems we experience come less from the individual and more from the overarching systems that dictate how we do business. How many managers started out motivated and excited about doing things differently, only to be conditioned back to the status quo over time?

David B. Grinberg

Dave, your important insights are appreciated — with which I concur. As I noted, “6. Thou shall reject ineffective, entrenched and antiquated bureaucratic procedures which hinder productivity.” It’s challenging, to say the least, for great leaders to implement positive change and innovations with one hand tied behind their back because of unnecessary bureaucracy. I likewise agree this ultimately causes some otherwise great managers to throw up their hands in disgust and become more cynical about leadership and management .

Paul Grugin

While we all have different styles, I appreciate and could apply your “Commanagements” (yours if you want it, lol) with one pre-requisite. Too often we find shortfalls with or assign blame to others that actually mirrors our own behavior; the psychological term is displacement. In my own application of your principles I would “self-inspect” to see if everything I had control over matched the criteria I would hold others to. In other words, this is great as long as superiors “walk the walk” that they “talk the talk” to subordinates. Good post/series David.