So what is a chief of staff? Give your top 3 qualities or duties

Home Forums Leadership and Management So what is a chief of staff? Give your top 3 qualities or duties

This topic contains 8 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Peter Sperry 7 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #179504

    Dave Hebert

    “Other duties as assigned”

    If you’re a government employee, you probably have some variation of the catch-all category above somewhere in your position description or performance plan. And we all joke around about the miscellany that gets shoved under that category (Office Social Chair, Official Note Taker, etc.).

    I recently embarked on a detail in a position that seems to spend much, if not most, of its time in that category: chief of staff.

    While there are some clear responsibilities for advising, assisting, coordinating, and holding accountable on behalf of the execute for whom I am working, there are an awful lot of blanks to fill in.

    To an extent, my uncertainty is a result of my inexperience with this position, but my conversations with other chiefs suggest that I’m not entirely alone.

    One thing I do get is that a chief of staff has to be almost wholly focused on the exec. he or she serves — on her schedule, her action items, her follow-up, her professional relationships, what she will and won’t eat for lunch, etc. This job puts the service inside public service.

    But what do I know? I’ve been at this for 3 weeks. I want to hear from those of you who’ve done this before: What 3 qualities or duties do you think best exemplify a chief of staff?

  • #179520

    Peter Sperry
  • #179518

    Henry Brown

    IMO Unlike most posistions Chief of Staff has ONE responsibility only: to support the executive in whatever they may want or need

  • #179516


    They used to call us secretaries. We knew everyone in the bureau – at least on sight, we understood the agency’s major issues and could at least listen to leadership talk about them without getting completely lost. We had a clear grasp of organizational history. We could tell a hot button from a cold fish and could tell when the Exec was going from affable to angry instantly.

    Oh….and we could type 80 wpm. Many times the typing was the most important part of the job. Our skill and knowledge of the grammar and usage of the English language was second-to-none. We kept many people who were far above our paygrade from sounding stupid on paper.

    They don’t need secretaries anymore. They have GS-13 Chiefs of Staff to do the first paragraph and GS-4 mindless typists who do the second. And they call it “multi-tasking.”

  • #179514

    Wikipedia states:The title, Chief of Staff, identifies the leader of a complex organization, institution, or body of persons and it also may identify a Principal Staff Officer (PSO), who is the coordinator of the supporting staff or a primary aide-de-camp to an important individual, such as a president.

  • #179512

    Dave Hebert

    Wow, very thoughtful and helpful, Peter — should’ve searched for something like this first.

  • #179510

    Dave Hebert

    I have seen in my short time in this role that a lot of the work is exactly of the sort you describe — and I see many exec’s admin assistants performing that sort of work quite well. One big difference, it appears, is the COS’s role in holding people accountable in a managerial capacity and managing projects over senior staff.

  • #179508

    David B. Grinberg

    Top three qualities:

    1) Honesty

    2) Integrity

    3) Open door policy

    Know anyone like that, Dave? You perhaps!

  • #179506

    Dave Hebert

    That’s very kind, David — thanks. It helps that no one expects me to know what I’m doing, so if I shrug and say, “I don’t know,” it’s absolutely true.

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