Improving the opportunities for young leaders in government

Virginia Hill is president of Young Government Leaders, an organization that works to build a community of leadership for young public servants across the country. As her day job, Hill is the coordinator for the Presidential Management Fellows program at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Hill spoke about attracting young people to government and their roles as future leaders with Tom Fox, a guest writer for On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up their Center for Government Leadership.

What motivated you to pursue a career in public service?

I started as a social worker in Louisiana. About half way through my final year in graduate school, I realized that my talents might lie elsewhere. I knew I wanted to help people, so I started exploring other career paths. I applied to the Presidential Management Fellows program in 2007 and was lucky enough to be accepted. I had the opportunity to experience several different career fields and that opened my eyes to all the potential in government.

What have you learned about leadership as an employee at NIH?

I've learned that there is no one-size-fits-all leader. I've seen so many people succeed in leadership regardless of their personality or background. Anyone can succeed in leadership if they care about the mission and care about their employees. Some of the best leaders I have observed really understand the motivations of their employees.