Masters of Science in Leadership helps government employees innovate

A recent report by the Partnership for Public Service explores the desire of federal employees to innovate and the degree to which leaders can promote innovation within their teams.

Now beginning its second year, the Masters of Science in Leadership (MSL), offered by Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis in partnership with the Brookings Institution, helps U.S. government employees think strategically about opportunities for innovation, and does it in a way that is very cost effective.

“We have a new way to think about how to undertake innovation in the government,” says Jackson A. Nickerson, PhD, director of the Brookings-Olin partnership and Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow in Government Studies. “Our master’s degree represents a new approach for public servants to help them innovate within the context of the government.

“We teach a number of processes that help people do a better job of formulating innovation opportunities, thinking critically and strategically about those innovation opportunities, seizing those opportunities, and leading change to help them implement in a way that other programs don’t,” Nickerson says.

The MSL is designed to develop leaders for service as senior federal executives and combines the business acumen and knowledge of Olin Business School faculty with the Brookings Institution’s research and policy expertise. The program is designed to prepare senior federal executives for leadership positions.

“It’s a non-cohort based system,” Nickerson says. “Students can take classes two days here and two days there and courses can be taken in any sequence.

“In terms of evaluation, the ‘test’ following the program is that students have six months to apply what they’ve learned and reduce it to practice, writing a short paper about its application and what went well and what did not go so well, resulting in a conversation with the faculty member.”

Nickerson believes the program provides strong value for government employees.

“At the end of the day, we offer great return on investment in terms of content. What we teach is not only actionable but also impactful,” says Nickerson.

“We have a higher value and lower cost than any other leadership development program aimed at the United States government.”

Most courses are offered at Brookings in Washington, D.C., and the majority are taught by senior Olin professors.

Upon completion of the program, graduates will be grounded in the Office of Personnel Management’s Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs), which form the basis for promotion to Senior Executive Service (SES) membership.