Becoming An Effective Leader In Government & Beyond: An Interview With Steve Ressler, Founder of GovLoop

Have you ever considered the public sector and government for your next career move? Governments face interesting problems and that means there are opportunities to deliver new projects. In today’s article, you will learn about Steve Ressler’s career journey which has spanned from various roles in the U.S. government to launching his own venture, GovLoop. I had the opportunity to meet Steve when he recently visited Toronto. My thanks to Winnie Liem and the PMI-SOC Government Community for introducing me to Steve.

Who Is Steve Ressler?

Steve Ressler is the Founder and President of,

Steve Ressler is the Founder and President of, the “Knowledge Network for Government” which connects and fosters collaboration among over 200,000+ members of the government community. On GovLoop, members learn and discuss best practices on key topics in governments through blogs, forums, free online trainings, and research guides.

Mr. Ressler is a 3rd generation public sector leader and spent 6 years in roles at Social Security Administration, Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security Inspector General, and DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He is a 2015 Presidential Leadership Scholar, has won the 2010 GovTech Top 25 Doers, Dreamers, and Drivers Award, as well as the 2007 and 2009 Federal 100 Award.  Additionally, he has been featured in many publications and conferences including the Washington Post, Harvard Kennedy School, World Economic Forum, Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Huffington Post, among others.

1. What are the major mistakes you see people make in developing their careers?

Many people are too conservative in their careers (i.e. not taking enough risk). Second, failing to go where the action is – get on the rocket ship!. Specifically, look for areas that are growing in staff, adopting new technology or capitalizing on new trends.

Editor’s Note: Ressler’s recommendation also applies to the private sector. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg shared this observation from Google’s Eric Schmidt: “Get on a rocket ship. When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. And when companies aren’t growing quickly or their missions don’t matter as much, that’s when stagnation and politics come in. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.)”

2. Where do you see major opportunities in government to improve productivity, service and other improvements?

I see huge opportunities to use modern cloud technologies paired with design thinking for intuitive services to provide significantly better and cheaper services to citizens.

3. What are the top areas of demand for education at GovLoop?

Huge demands around topics of data analytics, leadership, human-centered design

Tip: If you’re interested in exploring data science careers further, read my article at InfoWorld: Career boost: Break into data science.

4. What are some of the leadership insights you gained from participating in the 2015 presidential scholars program?

The higher in rank you get, the more difficult decisions you have to make.  If it was easy, the decision would have already been made at a level below you.  As a leader, you are often faced with unclear choices with limited data and you have to decide how to manage the process of decision-making (e.g. how quickly have to make the decision, who to consult, what options are available) and in end, you have to make a call and someone will be upset no matter what.

Resource: Leadership and decision making is a complex art. Shane Parrish, author of the Farnam Street blog, has excellent additional insights such as 16 Leadership Lessons from a Four Star General and Creating a Latticework of Mental Models.

5. What do you see as the role and value for in person events and associations?

The Presidential Leadership Scholars program has been hugely valuable for my growth.

Personal Democracy Forum is an annual event that has been quite valuable in connecting me to technology leaders in the non-profit, political, and government space.

6. What are 3 of the most popular articles at GovLoop?

7. Who do admire as a leader or entrepreneur? What insights do you apply from that person?

Mark Zuckerberg stands out because of his huge vision, focused execution (i.e. Facebook serves over 1 billion people), and his ability to take huge bets (e.g. buying Whatsapp for $10+ billion)

8. What books have found found most valuable in developing your career?

Two books stand out:

9. If readers are interested in joining GovLoop, what is the best place for them to start?

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