TOC Next Page



During the course of this decade the total number of National Park Service employees will be reduced in accordance with overall government reduction goals. The National Park Service will need to aggressively adapt to develop and support a highly motivated work force equipped to deal with new societal realities. Reorganization and re-engineering will result in some increased efficiencies; however, personal responsibility must be shouldered by each individual employee to achieve maximum positive results.

Impediments to employee motivation must be eliminated in order to effectively meet the challenges of a smaller work force. Morale problems associated with failures of supervision, poor wages, and limited career advancement must be aggressively dealt with. Recent efforts at equalizing public service compensation with private industry have produced some positive results. Continued work in these areas will receive an enthusiastic reception.

Fundamental change in work force demographics will continue to increase emphasis on family issues in the workplace. Women will be increasingly represented in all career fields and may become a majority of the work force in coming decades. The needs of dual income and dual career families will increasingly be focussed on child care and elder care issues. Adherence to flexible work schedules, child and elder care support, and dual career opportunities will help the agency compete effectively to attract and sustain an effective work force.

The composition of the civilian labor pool will become increasingly multiracial and reflective of society's demographics in the future. This will require increased commitment to cultural diversity in the workplace. Other demographic issues include the fact that 60% of all current employees are between the ages of 35 and 50. In some professional occupations this age group may occupy as much as 80% of the positions. This phenomenon, combined with the restructuring goal of changing the supervisory ratios from 1 - 7 to a 1 - 15 ratio, may limit "upward" career advancement opportunities. (It is estimated in the landmark study "Civil Service 2000" that 50-75 employees will apply for every supervisory and managerial position advertised during the 1990's.) Continued professional growth and development opportunities must be made available within the new flattened organizational structure to accommodate employees needs for reward and recognition.

Pro-active human resource management and flexibility in the face of changing societal demands will assist agency efforts to

maintain a competent and motivated work force. As employers demand greater efforts from employees, we must also equip them with necessary skills and leave them time for the family life they seek to support.




*Gives employees appropriate independence and freedom to do their work.

*Encourages employees to practice smart risk-taking to achieve program goals and objectives.

*Encourages employees to use innovative approaches to solve problems.

*Involves employees in improving the quality of the work produced.

*Allows employees to make mistakes and assists employees in learning from them.


*Gives each employee a clear understanding of how his/her work fits into the overall priorities of the work unit and contributes to the mission of the National Park Service.

*Promptly informs employees when there is a change in policy, rules, and/or regulations that affects them.

*Encourages and accepts constructive feedback from subordinates.

*Keeps employees informed about matters that affect them and their jobs.

*Assists employees in setting clear goals.


*Plans out work in advance.

*Offers employees effective ideas for solving job related problems.

*Revises his/her position when new information suggests that change is needed.

*Assures that the work of each employee provides challenge

and opportunity for unique expression to the extent of individual ability.

*Provides for the safety and health of all employees.


*Instills confidence and trust among employees by modeling appropriate behaviors.

*Demonstrates concern about employees as people and emphasizes establishing an appropriate balance of work/family life.

*Deals effectively with poor performers.

*Deals fairly with all employees based on performance, playing no favorites.

*Understands and supports employees' family responsibilities.

*Provides consistent direction and guidance.

*Assures a work environment that is free of intimidation and harassment.


*Provides employees with opportunities for career development opportunities.

*Ensures that employee career development needs are being met.

*Encourages employees to pursue personal development activities.

*Provides employees with the training needed to keep pace with the requirements of their jobs.

*Performance feedback systems are developed and utilized in such a way as to facilitate career growth and development.


*Assures that employees focus on shared work unit objectives.

*Assures good communication and coordination among work unit members.

*Informs employees of the performance of the work unit against established goals.

*Rewards employees for accomplishment of both work unit and individual objectives.

*Encourages teamwork in getting the job done.

*Works cooperatively with other work units.

*Identifies and assures cooperation with partners (other parks in cluster, Friends, non-agency organizations, etc).


*Assures that the values of resources protection and public service are instilled in all employees.

*Assures that all employees receive initial and follow-up orientation to the NPS mission.

*Demonstrates commitment to serving all park visitors by hiring practices that result in work force diversity.


Competencies are knowledge, skills, and abilities that employees develop through formal and on the job training, continuing education, details and other employee development opportunities.

Leadership Competencies are the knowledge, skills and abilities that the National Park Service strives to develop in all employees. All employees from front line through designated supervisors and team leaders to executives, are expected to develop expertise in their respective fields and share it with others. In addition, leadership competencies consist of an advanced set of knowledge, skills and abilities for the designated supervisors and executives in the agency who have vision, inspire employees to accomplish the vision, and take responsibility to guide employees through change.

The following competencies have been arranged along a continuum that reflects leadership competencies at the basic level for front line employees, at the mid level for supervisory and team leader employees, and at the executive level for employees in the positions of Management Assistant and above.

This continuum outlines course areas that can be used to design a training and development program for employees. Based on this continuum, courses and course curriculum will be developed to assist employees in becoming proficient in these competency areas.


Those who are or aspire to be leaders can develop and enhance their skills, knowledge, and abilities through development in the following skill areas:

1. Communication skills - Anticipates the need for and presents ideas, issues, and strategies to individuals and groups effectively.

a. Problem solving - makes clear and convincing oral presentations to lessen polarization and encourage results; recognizes that listening is more than 50% of communication and listens well; promotes an open exchange of ideas by understanding the characteristics and needs of affected parties; uses techniques of influencing, negotiating and mediating; identifies and seizes opportunities; imagines what the ideal situation could be to find solutions to complex problems; integrates information from various sources to solve problems; thinks creatively and conceptually; understands and applies contemporary problem-solving techniques.

b. Interpersonal skills - considers and responds appropriately to the needs, feelings, and capabilities of others; adjusts approaches to suit different people and situations; provides honest feedback and treats people fairly; negotiates and contributes to common understanding that resolves conflicts, confrontations, and disagreements and minimizes negative personal and organizational impacts.

2. Flexibility - Is open to change and new information; adapts behavior and work methods in responses to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles; effectively deals with pressure and ambiguity; deals effectively with a variety of people, personalities, and cultures; recognizes and responds to situations not of one's own making; seizes opportunities created by luck and timing.

3. Decisiveness - Makes sound and well-informed decisions on the best and most appropriate sources of information; perceives the impact and implications of decisions; commits to action, even in uncertain situations, in order to accomplish organizational goals and vision; willing to take calculated risk in order to create change; learns from mistakes.

4. Self-direction - Demonstrates belief in own abilities and ideas; is self-motivated and result-oriented; recognizes own strengths and weaknesses, builds on strengths and learns from mistakes; seeks feedback from others and opportunities for self-learning and development; balances the needs of career/family/self.

5. Team Building - Facilitates effective group process; encourages and facilitates cooperation, pride, trust, and group identity; fosters commitment; empowers people by sharing power and authority; shares rewards for achievement; accepts responsibility for failure; appreciates and promotes individual differences and workforce diversity; transforms groups to high performing teams; participates in and fosters partnerships with organizations which contribute to mission objectives.

6. Ethics and Personal Values - Consistently exhibits high standards of loyalty to the organization, honesty, fairness, trust, openness and respect for others. Applies these values to daily behavior and acts in ways that are consistent with these beliefs. Has passion for the organization and the job.

7. Customer Service - Anticipates and appreciates the challenges of serving both external and internal customers, clients and stakeholders; creates environments that supports continuous improvement and value-added customer service; is committed to improving service by being accountable for measurable outcomes.

8. Vision - Has a desire to challenge the process, to change the way things are, to create something that no one else has ever created before; can visualize, articulate, and inspire futures and focus resources and attention to achieve that future; disregards distractions that detract from achieving that future; focuses on the big picture.

9. Knowledge and experience - Knows the organization, its policies and has passion for its mission; works with energy, enthusiasm, flexibility and insight to bring about effective and significant change; moves the organization forward to achieve mission objectives through individual and collective effort.

10. Political awareness - Knows the political players and situations affecting the agency at the local level as well as within cluster and nationally, stays abreast of national political trends; maintains effective contacts with congressional representative. Represents the NPS by knowing how to negotiate within the political arena.


Leadership can be defined as "a process that helps direct and mobilize people and/or their ideas" (Kotter, A Force for Change). it has three major functions: 1) creating a vision - where and what the organization should be in a future time; 2) aligning people to the vision - garnering support from the critical players in the organization; and 3) inspiring and motivating the employees to accomplish the vision. Leadership has one compelling product: change. Three brief discussions will help define what exactly leadership is:

Big L and little l

Most employees assume that NPS leadership lies at the top of the organizational pyramid, and certainly it is the top leaders that must carry the organization through times of crisis. This is known as the "Big L" leadership and it is necessary when major change is needed in the organization. However, every day in every way leadership is necessary if the organization is to succeed after the crisis has been met. Whether a supervisor, work crew member, or short term task force member, leadership is necessary to accomplish the job at hand. This is known as "little l" leadership, and each employee has the opportunity to exhibit the process of leadership. In fact, it is from the leadership training and experiences achieved in the more minor situations that come the Big L leaders of tomorrow. For this reason, exposure to leadership theory and training is critical at all levels of the Service, not focused at the top of the pyramid.

Leaders of people vs. Leaders in their Field

Another clarification to be addressed is the type of "leader" we are discussing here. When employees are asked to name people they consider to be leaders, often names like Beethoven or Frank Lloyd Wright get on the list. These individuals represent "leaders in their fields" - people who are on the cutting edge of their particular career field. However, in the leadership context we are discussing, we hope to develop "leaders of people" - people will carry out the vision, make the desired change. Unfortunately too often leaders in their field are place in positions of leaders of people, often with disastrous results. Certainly leaders must be competent, knowledgeable, and experienced in their field in order to get the trust needed from followers; however, leading people should be the focus.

Leadership and Management

Management became significant as large, complex corporations evolved in the 20th century. A process was needed to deal with the chaotic nature of these large entities; to see that the product was produces on budget and on time. The main product of management is consistent results. This is very important, but it is not leadership. Management works well until change is needed, then leadership must come to the fore. Both processes are important, but they work together like opposite poles, or two ends of a continuum. To quote Owen, Leadership Is, "Leadership invokes and invites Spirit to lay down new footprints. management paves the path, keeps the troops on schedule and on the road." Each are necessary, but outweigh each other in different situation. An individual employee needs to understand and be trained in both; they will both be used.

A final word on leadership and management: On January 27, 1993, newly appointed Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt was asked in a meeting with Interior employees how he would run the Department. His response - "With the prose of problem solving infused with the poetry of vision and goals'. A perfect example of the differences between management and leadership, and the importance of both!

As employees in the National Park Service in all career fields, and at all stages of our career, we can help the agency set and accomplish its mission effectively if we practice and ultimately possess core values, beliefs and assumptions both as leaders and as members of teams or groups. If it is true that people do not necessarily follow other people, rather they follow a cause or a purpose they deem important, then a leader (as identified by followers) is a person who stands for that cause of purpose, described as follows:

1. A leader models passion, energy and enthusiasm for the NPS mission - a cause worthy of others' commitment.

2. A leader holds a role and responsibility that is important and valued by others within which he/she coaches and mentors others to accomplish the mission.

3. A leader treats all others with dignity and respect and values work force diversity.

4. A leader enables others to achieve or succeed by facilitating work and providing appropriate resources.

5. A leader creates a caring and supportive work environment in which all persons can grow and benefit.

6. A leader values every person's experiential and intellectual contribution or potential for contribution.

7. A leader expresses optimism, a "can do" attitude and a resilience to adversity.

8. A leader establishes an environment win which a right to know prevails over the need to know.

9. A leader expresses self as a model or example for those who follow, especially as a life long learner.

10. A leader conducts business as a community participant linking the mission with other societal and economic priorities.

National Park Service
Training and Development Division
Essential Competencies

TOC Next Page