02/08/2013 04:27 pm ET Updated Apr 10, 2013

Developing leadership principles

Tom Fox is a guest writer of the Washington Post's Federal Coach blog and vice president for leadership and innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up the Partnership's Center for Government Leadership.

A friend of mine sometimes uses sailing as a metaphor for leadership. He's fond of saying that exceptional leaders will identify a true north -- their essential leadership principles -- to navigate calm or rough waters.

In a world of never-ending challenges and unpredictable events, federal leaders would be wise to spend some time defining the central elements of their leadership approach. You know that the rapids are coming, so you should chart your course carefully right now to help ensure success.

One example of a federal leader with a core set of principles is Elliott Branch, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for acquisition and procurement. Branch has been recognized for instituting important management innovations and engaging in a number of major and highly successful negotiations involving guided missile destroyers, surface ships and submarines that saved taxpayers billions of dollars.

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