First Line Supervisors in the Federal Service: Their Selection, Development, and Management

February 2003 - This report is the second in a five-study series undertaken by the Academy to address the changing roles of federal managers in the 21st Century.  

It outlines the challenges and opportunities that federal agencies face in building successful first-line supervisors, those individuals responsible for the work of non-supervisory employees. An extensive array of information was collected and considered, including demographic data, studies and surveys, and opinions of supervisors, key executives, human resources professionals, and non-supervisory employees.

Key Findings

The Panel found that first-line supervisors were the federal government’s largest corporate leadership asset as measured by both sheer numbers and direct impact; however, they needed to be more adequately prepared and supported to perform at the level that current and future needs required. The Panel also found that, as the number of first-line supervisors and managers declined, supervisory jobs were becoming increasingly difficult to perform. With some exceptions, federal agencies did a poor job of managing government supervisors. The Panel determined that the Federal government was at a demographic crossroads with respect to its leadership cadre.