The Long and Short of It: Career Development for Federal Employees

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

President John F. Kennedy once famously noted that “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” A corollary to this might be that if we engage in life-long learning, our leadership journey is never complete. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Center for Leadership Development (CLD) embraces this as a core belief in its work to cultivate public sector leaders among the 2.7 million men and women employed by the U.S. government. In its learning centers in Washington, D.C., Denver, Colorado, and Charlottesville, Virginia, as well as through its virtual classrooms, CLD provides career-long leadership development for the federal workforce. In particular, CLD advocates transformational leadership , seeking to create visionary leaders who drive extraordinary levels of success for the good of the nation.

This is an extraordinary effort in extraordinary times. The U.S. government faces challenges that cross traditional organizational and functional areas. For instance, hurricane relief requires a whole-of-government response, and protecting infrastructure from cyber threats necessitates coordinating interdisciplinary functions across multiple agencies. Shared crises and challenges like these require a robust response that marshals talents across the entire federal workforce, leveraging leaders at all levels, not only the few at the top. CLD’s mission is to provide opportunities to build leadership skills so federal employees have the ability to exercise leadership in their current roles, while also challenging them toward the next level of their professional development. 

This dual—current and future—focus could be likened to transforming one’s golf game; success on the green is found in mastering both the short and the long game. CLD is committed to the success of federal leaders both in their short game (the present) and their long game (the future). The short game in golf is concerned with finesse. In the workplace, this might be analogous to accuracy in selecting and mastering vital technical skills to develop expertise in a particular functional area such as budgeting or project management. 

While this expertise is vital early in one’s career, it alone will not prepare one for future leadership roles, where success is dependent less on doing the work and more on getting the work done through others. The long game in leadership means not only leveraging technical expertise learned in the short game, but also focusing on the ball’s power and distance: influencing others, thinking strategically, and planning for the organization’s future.


CLD empowers learners to focus on both their short and long games by providing leadership development that's right for them throughout their entire careers. These learners participate in courses and programs with application-based leadership content, including a variety of assessments, road maps to success, and intensive leadership skills development.

Common to all of CLD’s curricula is a belief that effective leadership begins with a deeper understanding of self and role, followed by skills development. These lead to the motivation and vision a leader needs to inspire others to tackle challenges now and in the future. 

CLD courses provide the means and structure by which employees can be engaged in transformational leadership development through the span of their careers. Regardless of where one stands on the green—as either a beginner or a seasoned expert—CLD can be a partner and coach for everyone seeking to be career-long students of leadership to master their game.

For more information about CLD’s programs and courses, please visit

About the Author
Joseph Kennedy is the associate director for Human Resources Solutions for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. In this capacity, he is responsible for leading the delivery of high quality, cost-effective human resources products and services that help federal agencies develop leaders; attract and build a high-quality public sector workforce; and become high-performing organizations. Prior to joining HRS in February 2013, Kennedy was the principal deputy associate director for OPM's Employee Services and the agency's chief learning officer. As the principal deputy associate director for Employee Services, his responsibilities included formulating and implementing human capital management strategies and policies to support federal agencies in meeting their missions and overseeing the organization’s performance on key strategic goals, including hiring reform, veterans’ employment, and closing skills gaps. He was instrumental in developing guidelines and standards that are used to assess the Government’s performance on human capital management. Mr. Kennedy also served as the acting director for the Office of Human Resources Development, where he was responsible for carrying out OPM’s government-wide training leadership and policy activities and directing the activities of the Training and Management Assistance program. This included formulating the legislative agenda for training, including provisions for academic degrees and other flexibilities to assist in the development, recruitment and retention of highly qualified candidates. Prior to this position, he served as a LEGIS Fellow in the Office of Congresswoman Constance Morella. There he managed the congresswoman’s legislative agenda affecting federal employees, including the Thrift Savings Plan, HR reform, training, health insurance, and federal retirement initiatives. Mr. Kennedy is the author of Retraining in the Federal Government, a document that identifies strategies for preparing employees for new careers. He coauthored the first edition of the Training Policy handbook, a resource that examined the various laws, regulations, and policies that govern employee development in the federal government. He has spoken at numerous training conferences and events.
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