6 Trends in the Next Generation of Government

Six ideas next-generation leaders have for transforming government.

The next generation of government leaders is coming. With the retirement tsunami finally beginning, more and more government agencies are seeing their generation X and Y employees move into leadership roles.

So what are these young leaders passionate about? What inspires them, and where are they interested in making changes?

Luckily for you, I have some answers.  

GovLoop recently held a speaker contest for its Next Generation of Government Training Summit that’s being held July 25-26 in Washington, D.C. It was fascinating to sort through the 100-plus entries and 15 finalists spanning more than 50 different federal, state and local government entities.

While analyzing the submissions, I observed six major trends:

1. Why Government Matters — Numerous entries focused their proposed talks on why government work matters. These talks often focused on how government is perceived and how we need to show the public the good work government does. Proposals such as “How to Love Your Government Career” and “The S.O.U.L. in Public Service” provided insight regarding how to tap into government’s mission.

2. Perseverance —
Another common theme was the difficulty of change and innovation in government. Multiple submissions proposed sessions on how to navigate bureaucracy, influence without authority and create successful change initiatives. These sessions consisted of everything from changing the analytical culture of a statistics agency to creating a change campaign in a CIO shop. As IT leaders, we all know that the technology is the easy part; the difficulty is in the change management.

3. Power of New Approaches — Many submissions shared a case study of how new technology had radically changed an agency, whether it was social media, big data, mobile technologies or a new analytic approach. Others discussed taking new approaches to making changes, including a proposal on the power of improvisation in government work and the value of design thinking to transform delivery.

4. Mission Focused — The breadth of government is extensive, and it was amazing to see the diversity of submissions that were entirely mission focused. There were countless new ideas and approaches to solve very specific mission problems from sessions discussing all-hazards emergency preparedness at zoos to a proposal on biomimicry to a new model for agency learning.

5. Overcoming Adversity —
I was impressed with the number of leaders who already had overcome adversity in their careers. One proposed session, called Overcoming Obstacles, featured a young government employee who prevailed after years of injuries from an incident in which his federal vehicle was hit by a stolen pickup truck that was being chased by a police task force. Other proposals consisted of a public official who became the first openly gay elected representative in his state to a former convict who now helps lead reintegration efforts of former inmates from state and local prisons.

6. New Ways of Working — Young leaders also were excited about new ways of working. Sessions had topics like “Work Smarter, Not Harder” and proposed rethinking how government agencies do internal collaboration and how to take a human-centered design approach to learning. Others included how a fellowship program is creating a cohort of sustainability experts across an agency, and how an employee launched an internal mentoring program across departments to facilitate collaboration.

I’m enthused to see what the next generation of leaders brings to government. As we deal with shrinking budgets, increasing citizen demands and an aging workforce, we need fresh ideas and energy to solve these challenges. The good news is: Your next leader is probably already in your agency. You just need to tap into that creativity and focus it on mission results.

Miriam Jones is chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines. She joined e.Republic in 2000 as an editor of Converge magazine.