Penn Fels Institute of Government Report Explores What It Takes to Succeed as a State Cabinet Secretary

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Media Contact:Jacquie Posey | | 215-898-6460December 17, 2012

PHILADELPHIA –- In a new report, “What It Takes to Lead State Agencies: Promising Practices for State Cabinet Secretaries,” Fels Research & Consulting, a division of the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government, lays out seven core competencies that can help state cabinet secretaries manage their agencies and advance their governors’ agendas.

Despite the critically important role the cabinet secretary and hundreds of others play in state governments nationwide, little research has been done to determine the unique knowledge, skills and abilities they need to succeed.          

Based on interviews with more than 24 secretaries nationwide, the Fels report features real-life narratives and concrete advice from current and former leaders about how to get things done in government.

 “The Fels Institute of Government strives to produce reports that are filled with practical recommendations on how to get things done in the public sector,” David Thornburgh, executive director, said. “As states continue to struggle with budget shortfalls and a host of other daunting challenges, cabinet secretaries are continually being asked to find ways to make government more efficient. This report will provide cabinet secretaries with strategies and skills that can help them develop great ideas and put them into practice.”

Author Tess Mullen, who is studying for a masters of public administration at Fels,, and Fels Senior Consultant Mario Moussa interviewed numerous state officials who are recognized innovators in their fields. Several of them enacted major initiatives during their tenures as cabinet secretaries. Fels also interviewed former chiefs of staff to gather their perspectives on why some cabinet secretaries succeed and others do not.

“What It Takes to Lead State Agencies” is the latest publication in Fels’ ongoing Promising series, a compilation of briefs that provide public-sector leaders and managers with effective, practical and innovative information on a broad range of public management topics.