06/17/2014 04:27 pm ET Updated Aug 17, 2014

Managing the State Department

Heather Higginbottom is deputy secretary for management and resources at the State Department. She previously served as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Higginbottom spoke about the challenges of managing the State Department 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. When is a time you took on a leadership responsibility as a young person?

A. The most formative experiences I had growing up were around organized and competitive sports, and this involved being a part of a team, figuring out how to excel, how to be a leader and how to stand out. That was really important in building confidence and figuring out my role. In soccer I played a midfield position, which does a lot of organizing and defending. So I found a really comfortable place for me, which was to set people up to score goals and to try to prevent the other team from getting the ball. You have a lot of control in that position and I really liked it.