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Leadership: Great Leaders Encourage Excellence through Continuous Improvement

Government agencies offer consistency, a dependable hierarchy, a foundation that the country depends on in good times and bad. But it can also be a place where it’s difficult to change or inspire creative thinking. Better leadership that focuses on an increase in return on investment (ROI) can help. Leaders who value and encourage their teams to do this focus on continuous improvement. This is a particular “value-add” in the preparedness sector, where every useable advantage can save lives. Expanding organizational leadership can build a pipeline of talent and be enhanced by a focus on continuous improvement:

Continuous Education

A prime mandate for government service is facilitating capacity building and the capability to administer quality outcomes. Also, as departmental managers, we are leaders our teams depend on, and we need to inspire our teams to commit to continuous education. Consequently, including the agency’s budgetary capacity to fund continuing education is step one. One key element is to encourage the right learning options for excellent individualized impact. Even with advanced degrees, a 2014 Forbes article posits –

“Researchers such as Richard Florida, Enrico Moretti, and Edward Glaeser have continued to find that higher levels of education lead to greater civic engagement, societal well-being, longevity, health, and regional economic prosperity.”

Here are some ways to do that:


Develop an appreciation for continuous learning in connection to constantly changing governmental operations. This can be as simple as seminar offerings. Seminars, often presented by subject matter experts, range from webinars and lunch-and-learns to more formal workshops and industry offerings.

Certification Programs

It’s up to you to “raise the bar” for delivering competitive performance throughout the organization and supporting additional certifications. Your people look to you to create standards of excellence that benefit departmental management. Encouraging ongoing certifications can be the “great equalizer” for everyone. Think of it as a terrific opportunity to provide incentives connected to individual career development directly related to government service.

Degree Programs

Pursuing an advanced degree pays incredible long- and short-term benefits. For many public servants, an advanced degree can be a comparative advantage, both qualitative and quantitative, in the following ways:

  • A leader’s awareness improves over the course of their matriculation.
  • Learning theory and practical functions can be used to identify issues by working with professors and classmates.
  • Advanced degree programs are avenues to explore case studies, discuss and capture lessons learned.
  • Likewise, participating in an advanced degree program can aid in improving the future delivery of the agency’s programs.


I have had the opportunity to pass down what I have learned and experienced to co-workers through formal and informal mentoring.

  • Understand that the true impact of mentoring is influential to everyone you associate with, directly or indirectly.
  • Impart a “pearl of wisdom” or sound advice to a mentee.
  • Use mentoring opportunities to help instill the organization’s core values.
  • Provide your staff access to resources internally and externally.


Technology, internet, apps and other programming innovations deliver hyperspeed improvement. I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of leveraging a new process related to driving qualitative benefits related to preparedness planning. Government agencies are in the business of continuity of operations, mitigation and saving tax dollars. Hence, as managers, exploring the limits of applying technology to complex challenges must be part of our toolkit. A great source for technology exploration is through the lens of a manager’s millennial team members.

In short, being curious as a leader and committing to continuous improvement, both for yourself and your team, has the potential for transformative advancements system-wide and strengthened efficiency.

Timothy D. Etson is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here

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