January 2016
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The Public Manager

White House Program Cultivates Cross-Agency Leaders

Monday, January 11, 2016

In a December 2014 address to 3,000 Senior Executive Service members, President Barack Obama announced that the administration would launch the White House Leadership Development (WHLD) program, an initiative to foster a cadre of top-level career executives with the skill sets and networks to address challenges and implement solutions across agency boundaries. "We want the next generation of leaders to have the experience of solving problems and building relationships across the government," Obama said.


The goal is to unlock the full potential of the federal workforce and drive greater effectiveness and efficiency within government, as well as harness taxpayer resources. During the initial pilot year, WHLD fellows will serve a one-year rotation on high-visibility, cross-agency projects. Fellows will meet each week for a variety of programming, which will include discussions with recognized experts in their fields, workshops to build skill sets in leadership and organizational performance, networking opportunities with colleagues across government, and situational mentoring and coaching sessions.

In late 2015, 16 federal supervisors currently employed as GS-15s from agencies throughout government were selected to participate in the inaugural cohort. "Their interest and enthusiasm for building a whole-of-government perspective and for driving results on mission-critical priorities is inspiring," writes Beth Cobert, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, in a blog post. "It also speaks to the need for a program such as this to provide opportunities for federal employees to build the experiences, skillsets and networks that are critical to enterprise leaders."

It is expected that fellows will spend approximately 80 percent of their time in the rotational assignment, gaining on-the-job experience. Additionally, approximately 20 percent of the fellows' time will be spent in leadership development. WHLD fellows will engage in an innovative development program that is targeted at the competencies, stakeholders, and exposure to collaborative practices required of enterprise leaders.

"We believe the White House Leadership Development Program is one way to prepare the 21st century workforce. As the president said, a high-performing government relies on an engaged, well-prepared and well-trained workforce. So do the American people," says Cobert.

ATD Resources

Measuring the Success of Leadership Development (ATD Book)

Leadership Development Basics (ATD Book)

ASTD Leadership Handbook (ATD Book)

Frontline Leaders: Developing Tomorrow's Executives (ATD Research)


Developing High-Performance Leadership Teams (TD at Work)

Feeding Your Leadership Pipeline (ATD Book)


About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently sources and authors content for TD Magazine and CTDO, as well as manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs. Contact her at [email protected] 

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