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The best, the brightest, the youngest

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John Coleman is co-author of the book "Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders," which explores the big issues facing young emerging leaders--their challenges, their aspirations and how they will redefine leadership. Coleman talked with Tom Fox, a guest writer for On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up their Center for Government Leadership.

What are the obstacles to recruiting a new generation to serve, particularly during the government shutdown?

The federal government has a perception problem. Government has developed a reputation as bureaucratic, slower moving and safe. I think that in reality the federal government offers so many dynamic opportunities to take real responsibility, especially for young people. But for some reason this perception problem exists, and part of it is just learning how to communicate the responsibilities that people can get and how they can move into those responsibilities earlier than they can in other arenas.

Events like the government shutdown may also cause issues. Organizational culture matters a great deal to young leaders, and if they see government as broken and dysfunctional, I think they'll be less likely to view it as a valid career option.

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