What Makes Good Government Leaders?

Terry Newell was an Air Force officer, Director of Training for the Department of Education and Dean of Faculty of the government's Federal Executive Institute. He left federal service in 2005 and now focuses on ethics and values-based leadership in government. Newell spoke with me about the challenges facing federal leaders. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Why should talented individuals consider a career in public service, especially given the negative political environment?

A: It's a great time to be in public service. The problems the nation faces offer an exciting opportunity to have a significant impact on building a better society. People are looking for something meaningful in their lives, not just a paycheck. And government is a place you can do that, whether it's fighting Ebola, sending probes to Mars or creating medical devices to help wounded veterans walk. The possibilities are endless. Yes, there are downsides, but there are downsides anywhere.

Q: What are some of the challenges facing federal leaders?

A: The biggest challenge is to rebuild trust inside government organizations and among those the government serves. Last year, surveys recorded the lowest percentage ever -- they found that only 13 percent say government can be trusted to do what is right always or most of the time. Government employee data shows that trust is also a problem within agencies. If we don't rebuild trust, it's hard to get a lot else done.

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This post was originally featured on the Washington Post's website.