Federal Leadership & Federal Government Structure – Nu Leadership Series

“National leaders who find themselves wilting under the withering criticisms by members of the media, would do well not to take such criticism personally but to regard the media as their allies in keeping the government clean and honest, its services.”
Corazon Aquino

Many people feel that changes are needed to make the federal government more efficient. However, this bureaucratic system is also driven by external forces. Executive leaders in the federal system are often political appointments. These federal officials primarily use a top-down approach for major decisions.

Nadler and Tushman, authors of Competing by Design, explain that organizations that utilize a top-down approach focus on the strategic level (top leaders, reporting relationships, etc), but fail to capture a holistic process. This approach can stop creative and innovative thoughts.

For example, federal insiders have already tried a common-sense approach to teleworking. According to a Cyber Security Industry Alliance study, there have been major initiatives calling for a national telework program such as presidential directives and legislative mandates. Several successful pilot programs, such as the IRS, have received praise from employees on their telework programs.

In a 2004 report, the General Accounting Office cited the following obstacles for telework implementation: (a) lack of full funding to meet the needs of telework program; (b) no eligibility criteria established for teleworkers,; (c) lack of top management support; (d) resistance by managers, primarily in middle-level ranks; and (e) lack of training and information on telework programs.

Finally, I conclude that a strong bottom-up approach aided by outside political forces (federal unions, private industry-benefactors) is the best viable option for transforming the federal structure.


Barr, S. (2005, December 12). A growing number of employees are staying away from the office. Washingtonpost.com, p. B02.

Cyber Security Industry Alliance (2005). Making telework a federal priority: Security is not the issue, 1-9.

Nadler, D. & Tushman, M. (1997). Competing by Design. New York: Oxford University Press.

© 2006 by Daryl D. Green