Henry Evans is the co-author of "Step Up: Lead in Six Moments that Matter," which explores ways that you can demonstrate leadership regardless of your job title. Evans spoke about his leadership theories 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.
Q. What are some of the attributes needed to be a great federal leader?
A. Prioritization is a critical leadership competency. A good federal leader has to be able to keep people focused on the things he can control. For example, if you're working in an agency and your budget gets cut or funds get reallocated, you have to figure out how to drive excellence by prioritizing what the staff will focus on and eliminating what they won't.
It also is critical for federal leaders to create emotional safety for their staff, specifically when it is time for them to bring you bad news. Federal leaders won't know what is going on in the organization if people don't feel safe telling them, and they can't make good decisions without real-time information.
Q. You talk in your book about the moments that matter. What is a leadership moment?
A. A leadership moment is an opportunity to do the right thing even if it isn't easy. These are moments when there is a leadership void. You can step up and lead in those moments once you know how to recognize them, even when you don't have the formal title or authority to do so.
Q. Can you give me an example of a leadership moment?
A. Our highest-performing leaders actually use the full spectrum of emotion in their communications and in meetings. We found that it's okay to get angry sometimes or frustrated at work, it can be a very productive form of fuel to catalyze action. The trick is to remain intelligent while angry. The leadership moment is being able to authentically express what most people would call a negative emotion, but in a way that still builds relationships. We call it "attack the idea, not the person."
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