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Motivated by the Mission Or by Their Careers Premium Content

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One of the most persistent questions facing leaders of government organizations is how to keep employees engaged, productive, and committed to serving the public. Leaders who understand and address what motivates their employees are more likely to hold on to their best people and maximize performance. In many cases, employee engagement rests on how well a manager understands employees, their reasons for working in the government sector, and how that information can be used to address employee needs. The Center for Creative Leadership and Booz Allen Hamilton conducted research to identify the reasons why people choose and remain in public service. The results shed new light on what drives employees in public institutions, and how leaders can keep employees engaged. Our research found that there are three profiles that describe different career orientations—mission focused, career focused, and those “stuck” with no other options.


Communities of Practice: Government, Human Capital


  • Jeffrey L. Herman, PhD, is an associate at Booz Allen Hamilton based in Rockville, Maryland, and serves as the team lead for leadership development strategy and research.

  • Jennifer J. Deal, PhD, is a senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership (San Diego) who manages the World Leadership Survey. She is the author of Retiring the Generation Gap (Jossey-Bass, 2007).

  • Marian N. Ruderman, PhD, is a senior fellow and director of research in the Americas and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at the Center for Creative Leadership (Greensboro).


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