Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Lessons From Emergency Managers: Why It’s Important to Like People


In a recent leadership development program for emergency managers from many of the largest cities in the country, Corner Alliance invited experienced leaders from the emergency management community to share their experiences and what they think are important leadership traits. These people are at the top of their game and clearly know something about leadership.

When we asked students what leadership lessons they took away after hearing from the experienced leaders, we expected answers along the lines of “you have to be an expert in the field,” “you have to be able to hold people accountable” and “you have to be decisive.” That’s not what we heard. Instead, they said you have to:

  • Have the courage to follow your instincts
  • Know yourself in order to know how to approach and work with others
  • Understand people’s motivations and know where they are coming from
  • Think outside the box: If you think you hear a horse coming, imagine it’s a zebra
  • Be sincere and authentic, you can’t “act” leadership
  • Understand the power of convening
  • Like people

Certainly many of these lessons aren’t surprising. But the one that really caught our attention was the need to like people. It struck us as so obvious, yet we don’t recall ever hearing it as part of the larger discourse around what it takes to practice effective leadership.

As is the case with the infinite debate about what leadership is, there are those who might argue, perhaps successfully, that one can be an effective leader if they don’t like people. But there is great wisdom in that simple lesson. One that might be the best test for whether someone is truly up to the responsibilities of being a leader.

What leadership qualities do you think are the most important?

(Image via cvm/

Sarah Agan is a regular contributor to Excellence in Government. She has spent the past 17 years working with clients across the federal government with a focus on helping individuals and organizations thrive.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.