How RGIII Can Teach Us to Be a Better Leader

Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, better known as RGIII, has electrified fans by his exciting style of play and poise under pressure. At just 22 years old, the young gun has reinvigorated Redskins fans and inspired his coaches and teammates.

So how did he do it? And what RG III leadership lessons can we apply to the federal government?

Tim McManus is the Vice President for Education and Outreach at the Partnership for Public Service. He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSDER program that RGIII is basically a first year Presidential Management Fellow.

“When the Redskins drafted RGIII, they threw out the existing playbook. The coaches wanted to design plays that were within his sweet spot. The federal government needs to do the same with PMF’ers. They need to find projects where the fellows can really excel,” said Fox.

Not a Talent Drought

“Much like the NFL draft, the PMF program is the government’s premier initiative for recruiting and developing top talent from graduate schools across the country. Every year, about 400 PMFs are selected for two year assignments. The Partnership for Public Service, with assistance from the Office of Personnel Management, recently completed the first phase of a study tracking the early experiences of PMFs, The Presidential Management Fellows Program: First Impressions From the Class of 2011,” said Tom Fox, the VP of Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service.

Job Satisfaction

Send them to training camp – One great element of professional sports is having a training camp before the start of the regular season. As a rookie, RGIII was not simply thrown into a game situation to sink or swim, but he was given guidance and an opportunity to learn and work with his teammates. This early prep is also key for PMF participants. PMF supervisors need to provide clear direction to fellows on their roles and responsibilities as well as agency processes and procedures. It’s also important to help fellows’ set appropriate expectations up front by talking through the opportunities that will be available during their two-year assignments.

Assign them a mentor – To help RGIII best succeed, the Redskins have likely asked some of their veteran players to serve as mentors, sharing their knowledge and experiences with their rookie quarterback. Assigning fellows’ a mentor during their orientation session will enable them to become better acclimated and provide them with a coach who can continually help develop and hone their skills.

Develop a game plan for using their skills –It’s important to place fellows in positions that are good fits for their experience and professional interests and then ensure that their first assignments match their skills and developmental needs. PMF supervisors need to spend time thinking about the best ways of engaging their fellows over the short- and long-terms. Just as the Redskins waited to make RGIII a team captain until he was developmentally ready, before too much time has passed, identify stretch learning opportunities that will push fellows beyond their comfort zone and help them gain more leadership responsibilities.

Raise the level of your supervisors’ game – Washington’s coaching staff came under harsh criticism earlier this year for putting RGIII in some vulnerable positions where he could get hurt, but they learned and adjusted. According the results of our research, fellows had high praise for the technical and people skills of their supervisors, but they raised concerns that they did not always fully understand the PMF program or the needs of the fellows. This can be easily remedied by creating opportunities for PMF coordinators to spend time with supervisors to educate them more about the program and how to help fellows succeed.

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Hannah Ornell

Interesting comparison, Emily! I particularly see the connection between the two when it comes to finding projects for PMFs. Everyone comes in with different backgrounds and it’s up to the team/agency to find ways to emphasize a person’s strengths.