On Running the EPA

Robert Perciasepe is the deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and for a time served as acting administrator. Prior to joining the Obama administration, he was chief operating officer of the National Audubon Society, held environmental posts in the Clinton administration and served as Maryland's secretary of the environment. He speaks here about managing the EPA 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.

Q. What is your leadership style?

A. I have a great sense of humor, and I use my sense of humor to put people at ease. In government, particularly, you have to be open and hear what people have to say. And you have to make sure people feel comfortable going through the pros and cons of whatever policies you're working on. My leadership style is to bring out the best in people, and that's what I think about when I sit down at a meeting--how am I going to make everyone feel comfortable and talk about what we really need to talk about?

Q. What advice do you have for leaders coming into the federal government from the private sector?

A. My advice is that you are a steward of public funds and you are charged with that responsibility in addition to the substance of what your agency is doing. You have to expect that there's going to be more checks and balances. This frustrates some people, but it's an added responsibility that you have in public service management that some people aren't quite as prepared for.