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

Do Women Make Braver Leaders Than Men?

Reams of research show that women confer many benefits to companies. They listen better, they represent the views of half the population, and they temper their hard-charging (pdf) male counterparts.

Except that it turns out, they are even more hard-charging.

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, the CEO and president, respectively, of Zenger/Folkm, a leadership consulting business, designed a “boldness index” from a database of assessments from 75,000 leaders around the world. They found that “women on average rank in the 52nd percentile of boldness, a few ticks higher than the average men rating of the 49th percentile.” If that doesn’t seem like a big difference, that’s because it’s not. But their conclusion defies the conventional wisdom that women are biologically more harmonious and risk-averse compared to their fractious and ambitious male counterparts.

Here are the components of their index, published in the Harvard Business Review:

  • Challenges standard approaches
  • Creates an atmosphere of continual improvement
  • Does everything possible to achieve goals
  • Gets others to go beyond what they originally thought possible
  • Energizes others to take on challenging goals
  • Quickly recognizes situations where change is needed
  • Has the courage to make needed changes

Some might call the...

The Perks—and Limits—of Having a Superstar Mentor

It would seem a safe bet that when faced with two offers from similarly prestigious companies, a job candidate would, most of the time, end up taking the one with higher pay. But when New York University’s Jason Greenberg and MIT’s Roberto M. Fernandez analyzed over 700 job offers from a cohort of students graduating from elite MBA programs, they found that something other than pay was driving students’ decisions.

In a paper that will soon be published in the journal Sociological Science,Greenberg and Fernandez write that the students were significantly more likely to accept jobs found through networking—done either through alums of their program or their own social connections—even if those jobs came with lower pay than offers arriving through more formal channels, like on-campus recruiting. The choice, the researchers suggest, may be driven by students’ interest in their own career development, and a belief that taking a job with more networking opportunities would give them a professional edge, even if it came at the cost of compensation.

The importance  of social networks in one’s career trajectory helps...

An Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Future

Instead of reading this column, you really should be reading Steve Case's new book, The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future (Simon and Schuster, 2016). Seriously. It's not only a fascinating view of his experience at the dawn of the Internet age, it's also a blueprint for how organizations must form partnerships with governments and others if they're going to succeed in this age of technological innovation.

But since you’re here, I'll try to make this synopsis worth your while. The wave of which Case writes is one in which the "Internet of Everything" is giving rise to ideas and companies that have the potential to totally disrupt the way we do things. He describes it as "a phase where the Internet will be fully integrated into every part of our lives—how we learn, how we heal, how we manage our finances, how we get around, how we work, even what we eat.” 

Case calls it the Internet of Everything instead of the Internet of Things, because the Internet is impacting nearly every aspect of our lives. And it can do so much more. Real time tracking of vital signs...

The Most Career-Minded Generation

According to admissions departments’ informational pamphlets, the primary reason for attending college is rather noble: Campus is a place to discover one’s interests and strengths, a place for both personal and intellectual development. But in recent years, another narrative has taken hold—that what matters is return on investment. In other words: What kind of job-market value does a graduate get from a college degree?

Post-college job considerations have always been part of the equation. But with the rapidly rising tuition costs, the national student-debt crisis, and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs encouraging some students to drop out altogether and enter the job market, this question has taken on new urgency. And it’s an important one, because it begets a whole slew of other anxieties about college. If one of the goals of higher education is to ensure that graduates go on to be financially stable, then a bunch of figures matter: how they fare in the labor market, what they’re paid, and what their loan-repayment and default rates are, to name a few. 

These considerations will sound distasteful to those who believe that education should be its own end. But, increasingly, students are looking at college degrees from...

Government’s Catch-22 People Problem

The skills gap is not new. Moreover, recent stories about staffing problems at Customs and Border Protection and the Bureau of Prisons show the issue is not limited to a short list of high risk mission-critical occupations. The latest example is the Secret Service.

Central to the problem across the board is the civil service bureaucracy, the General Schedule salary system, and the government’s “brand” as an employer.  The core issue is the rigidity of the civil service system and government’s inability or reluctance to tackle the real problems. Simply stated, today’s “war for talent” requires new answers. There is no solution in existing laws and regulations. 

Every year that passes without making needed changes results in the loss of more institutional knowledge and the further deterioration of morale. Each time the media focuses on performance problems, it gives new ammunition for the critics of government. Added to that are the pay and hiring freezes. Reports that it can take 18 months to get hired make the need for change obvious. For new graduates, the prospect of a federal career could hardly be less appealing.

The problem is exacerbated by projected skill shortages in the private sector...