May 7, 2013

The FBI and Leadership

Part 1: Helping Employees ‘Lead Where They Stand’

Janet Kamerman, executive assistant director of our Human Resources Branch, is a principal architect of the Bureau’s Leadership Development Program. recently sat down with Janet Kamerman, executive assistant director of our Human Resources Branch—and one of the principal architects of the FBI’s Leadership Development Program—to talk about the importance of leadership at all levels of the organization.

Q: Why is leadership development so important to the FBI?

Ms. Kamerman: Leadership is important in any organization, but because of the FBI’s mission to protect our national security and uphold the Constitution, effective leadership is essential. Some of the challenges we are confronted with every day as an organization are immediate and potentially deadly. We are leaders nationwide and worldwide in the law enforcement and intelligence communities. We need to continue to develop our employees to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, as there is so much at stake.

Q: How does the FBI address leadership development in an organization of 36,000 employees?

Ms. Kamerman: The Bureau hires talented and committed individuals. Whether they are agents or professional staff, our employees usually have impressive leadership experiences prior to becoming FBI employees. We view leadership development as a continuous cycle, from your first day on the job to the day you retire. And it’s not just about training. It’s about being exposed to the right experiences, the right mentors—and getting honest feedback from supervisors and peers so we can self-reflect and constantly seek self improvement.

Q: The Leadership Development Program (LDP) was created in 2009. What are the program’s goals?

Ms. Kamerman: The LDP was designed to put a common language around leadership and to make sure that employees—as part of the whole organization—understand the value of leadership. One of the mottos we have is “lead where you stand.” Regardless of what job a person has in the Bureau, employees need to understand the importance of leadership.

Q: How would you describe the LDP?

Ms. Kamerman: The program includes courses, online tools, mentors—an entire range of resources to help employees explore where they are in their own leadership development, as well as where they aspire to be and how to get there. In fact, these concepts are discussed with FBI employees during their first week in the Bureau. The program provides a framework for examining and improving leadership at the individual, team, and organizational level. People usually think of training when they think of leadership development, but you can only learn so much from the classroom. We want our employees to learn from a variety of developmental experiences.

Q: Can you tell us about an employee’s first week in the Bureau?

Ms. Kamerman: We call it the Onboarding New Employees (ONE) program, and it began in January 2012. Now, all new employees begin their FBI career at the FBI Academy in Quantico. People coming from Boston or Seattle—or wherever—all start together at the academy. In addition to learning the history and culture of the organization, they also get a block of training regarding leadership and the FBI’s leadership doctrine. Regardless of an employee’s job title—be it scientist or executive—from your very first experiences, you are taught the concept of leading where you stand. And that lays the foundation for leadership development throughout your career.

Our interview with the FBI’s top HR executive Janet Kamerman looks at the Leadership Development Program.