Skip to page navigation
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites. / Policy / Senior Executive Service / Executive Development
Skip to main content

Executive Development



U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has trained Federal managers and executives to be effective Government leaders. We recognize the need for leadership at all levels, encompassing the many roles that influence, create and implement good governance. We seek to empower Federal leaders by providing career-long training that enlightens and fortifies them on their Leadership Journey.

Agencies should prepare, implement, and continually update Executive Development Plans (EDPs) for all senior executives. EDPs should outline a senior executive's short-term and long-term developmental activities which will enhance the executive's performance. These developmental activities included in an executive's EDP should allow the executive to develop a broader perspective in the agency as well as Governmentwide. These activities should meet organizational needs for leadership, managerial improvement, and results. EDPs should be reviewed annually and revised as appropriate by an Executive Resources Board or similar body designated by the agency to oversee executive development.

Here is an EDP template your agency can use.

The Senior Executive Service is committed to developing leaders in the 21st century. One way to become an SES is to participate in a SES Candidate Development Program (SESCDP). These programs are designed to create pools of qualified candidates for SES positions. All SESCDPs address the five ECQs that embody the leadership skills needed to succeed in the SES. Many of the leader development activities on this website are also incorporated into SESCDPs.

Executive Onboarding

Executive onboarding is acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating new leaders into the organizational culture and business. The best onboarding strategies will provide a fast track to meaningful, productive work and strong employee relationships and be tailored specifically to the needs of the individual. Executive onboarding should be strategic, so that it not only prevents executive derailment, but expedites the executive's contribution to optimize strategic achievement.

The sooner a new executive experiences the benefits of a comprehensive and well-implemented orientation and onboarding program, the sooner the executive will become a contributing member of that organization.

To assist agencies in creating or modifying their own executive onboarding programs OPM created an Executive Onboarding Framework. The framework was designed to provide a consistent model with which to introduce new executives into the SES and to maximize executive effectiveness. It is a flexible framework allowing adjustments that adhere to specific agency rules, policies, procedures and needs.

Agencies can access the framework on OPM's Wiki page on Executive Onboarding.

Types of Leader Development

Development comes in many forms. One can gain a broader perspective by reading an executive leadership book or engaging in a more formal activity. Below are activities that one can utilize for further development.

Formal Training: OPM offers formal training at its Management Development Centers and the Federal Executive Institute. Agencies obtain formal training through other organizations. For more information, visit the Executive Development Community web page.

360 Degree Feedback: 360 degree feedback is a widely used method and tool to assist in identifying strengths and their developmental needs. It is usually conducted in a survey format and collects opinions about the participants from a wide range of individuals including the participant's co-workers, supervisor, direct subordinates as well as customers and other peers outside the executive's agency. OPM offers 360 degree survey services as do other organizations.

Mentoring: For those individuals who just entered the SES or are interested in becoming an SES member, it is recommended to seek out an experienced SES mentor either within or outside their agency. A mentor will provide valuable insight and experiences. Mentors are individuals who can share new ideas, challenges, and accomplishments.

Experienced SES members are encouraged to become mentors. It is a great way to share knowledge and experiences with someone who is looking to succeed in the SES.

Executive Coaching: Executive Coaching is a confidential, one-on-one partnership between an executive, manager, or team leader and a qualified coach to improve managerial performance and enhance learning. Both parties work together to set clearly defined goals, activities and time limits that will facilitate learning and performance improvement for the executive, manager, or team leader. Today's leaders and managers are turning to executive coaches to assist them whether it is helping them prepare for more responsibility or manage work-related stress.

The Federal Executive Institute, as well as other organizations including the Federal Consulting Group, a franchise of the U.S. Department of Treasury, provide executive coaching services to meet the leadership development needs of new and seasoned executives, managers, and team leaders.

Mobility Assignments: Current and aspiring executives have the option to participate in mobility assignments. 5 U.S.C. 3131, states that the Senior Executive Service is to be administered so as to "enable the head of an agency to reassign senior executives to best accomplish the agency mission," and to "provide for the initial and continuing systematic development of highly competent senior executives."

These assignments consist of details, special/short-term assignments, transfers, projects, use of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act authority, sabbaticals, formal training and other creative ways to expose executives to challenges or otherwise expand their capacity to serve. Assignments can be to other agencies, state and local governments, institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations, private sector companies or international organizations. Executives can bring a fresh perspective to a different part of agency or to a different agency if he or she chooses to participate in a mobility assignment outside the agency.

Career SES are eligible for temporary assignments to State, local, and Indian tribal governments, institutions of higher education, and other eligible organizations under provisions of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act and title VI of the Civil Service Reform Act, in accordance with requirements in 5 CFR Part 334. These assignments may be made for up to two years and if need be, extended by the head of an agency (or designee) for another two years. Individuals may be detailed to this assignment or placed on leave without pay; however, these individuals continue to encumber positions held before this assignment and continue to be an employee of their agency.

Sabbaticals: Another means for an SES member to gain a broader knowledge and experience is to participate in a sabbatical. Sabbaticals can be used for teaching; study (independent or structured); research; developmental work experience in the private sector, non-profit organizations, State, local, or foreign governments; and an activity or a project not covered above. To be eligible for a sabbatical, SES who are in career appointments must have completed 7 years of service in SES positions or equivalent civil service positions and at least 2 of the 7 years must have been in the SES. The appointee cannot be eligible for voluntary retirement as of the time the sabbatical begins. A sabbatical may not be granted to the same individual more than once in a 10 year period. The SES member must sign an agreement to continue in the civil service for a period of 2 years following the sabbatical. However, an agency head may waive this requirement for "good and sufficient reasons" (e.g. disability retirement, reduction in force, or other involuntary separation).

Action Learning: Action learning is a process for working on important business problems and opportunities in diverse teams to develop the participants and improve the business. It is a process commonly used in the private sector. Action learning closes the gap between theory and practice. More specifically, action learning can provide executives the opportunity to pool resources and work across agencies on similar issues resulting in Governmentwide solutions. Solving the problem and learning individual capacity for leadership are intertwined.

Leadership Development Programs at The Federal Executive Institute and the Management Development Centers

The three residential learning facilities of the Office of Personnel Management are dedicated to providing learning, renewal, and peer interaction for the Federal Government's leadership corps.

The three facilities-in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, Denver, Colorado, and Charlottesville, Virginia-all offer exceptional learning environments. Versatile conference space, excellent food services, and outstanding recreation facilities are provided under a single roof, in locations chosen for accessibility, natural beauty, and a relaxed quality of life.

Executive Development Community

Here are some organizations that help people in their quest to becoming better leaders:

Here are additional organizations that provide professional developmental opportunities for executives:


These external organizations have been used successfully by a number of agencies. OPM does not endorse these organizations. This is for informational purposes only.

Thought Leader Forum

On April 10, 2007, OPM convened a Thought Leader Forum in Washington, DC to discuss executive development. The purpose of the Forum was to develop actionable ideas for improving the development of Senior Executives. The Forum was co-sponsored by the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It brought together approximately 100 leaders on the topic of executive development from Government, the military, academia, good-government organizations, and the private sector. The below documents provide comprehensive information about the Forum.

Summary Report

Overall description of the purpose and outcome of the forum.

Read Ahead Documents

Background information provided to participants in advance.

Miscellaneous Documents

Describes major action items discussed by forum participants.

Courses and Resources

Executive development is a valuable way to help Federal leaders strengthen their leadership skills and competencies. Below are some free professional development tools and resources developed by OPM. Please check this page periodically for new free resources.


Executive Development Best Practices Guide

This guide contains information compiled from interviews with 17 Fortune-500 companies and 21 Federal agencies and reflects current trends and best practices in the field of executive development.

SES Situational Mentoring Program

OPM has created the SES Situational Mentoring Program in response to the President’s Second Term Agenda, People and Culture initiative. The program includes a “bank” of executive mentors prepared to offer just-in-time advice to new executives governmentwide. Executives interested in being a mentor or mentee can contact their agency SES Situational Mentoring Program Coordinator or email for more information.

Courses and Course Materials

Linking and Developing Measurable SES Results-Focused Performance Requirements

This course is available for executives to take on OPM’s Manager's Corner. The purpose of this course is to assist SES members with developing performance requirement(s) for the Results Driven critical element in their SES Performance Plans. Performance requirements must be linked to organizational goals and focus on achieving measurable results. Duration: 30-45 minutes. Agencies can download the SCORM 1.2 course package. If you choose to download the SCORM package, please contact Cheryl at to request the course evaluation form specific to this training.


There is specific language in the Linking and Developing Measurable SES Results-Focused Performance Requirements course regarding “always” including both quality and timeliness metrics in SES performance requirements. This language is intended to communicate and promulgate a best and desirable practice; however, it does not address certification requirements and is not intended to set or change current certification practice. The content is intended to promote good performance management by and for the audience of operational senior executives, rather than human resources practitioners, and therefore focuses on ideal performance management implementation practices rather than OPM’s certification requirements.

Executive Excellence and Wellness through Strategic Leadership

This course is available for executives to take on OPM’s Manager's Corner. This is a course executives can use to gain valuable knowledge, strategies and resources on how to use strategic leadership skills in their work and personal life to achieve executive excellence and wellness. The strategies in this training are designed to provide a helpful reminder of the value of strategic approaches to both work and personal life. Duration: 30 minutes. Agencies can download the SCORM 1.2 course package. Please contact Yadira at for instructions on how to upload the SCORM package to your agency's LMS.

Control Panel