2014 HRM Impact Award Winner


Message from FBI Director, James B. Comey

To be truly great, and to sustain greatness, the FBI needs consistent, excellent leadership at all levels and in all disciplines. We need to identify leadership potential early, then train, assess, and sort our leaders. The Leadership Skills Assessment that we use for mid-level management is essential to helping us identify those that have the leadership skill and potential to be good coaches, and not just good players. The extraordinary work needed to build and maintain such an important assessment tool is an example of the many things we do at the FBI every day to meet that challenge of consistent, excellent leadership.


The Leadership Skills Assessment (LSA)


As part of a consent decree stemming from a race-based discrimination class action lawsuit, the FBI was required to overhaul its promotion process for mid-level Special Agent management positions, to include a role-play assessment that was blind to race and gender. With the goal of emphasizing and promoting for leadership, factors such as the post-9/11 re-balance of mission for the FBI, the logistical challenges with filling 1500 global jobs from a pool of nearly 12,000 candidates annually, and acceptability and transparency for candidates led to this complex challenge and ultimate design of the telephonically administered Leadership Skills Assessment.

The Leadership Skills Assessment is a customized, live, day-in-the-life role play telephonic job situation designed by the FBI in partnership with Aon Hewitt Consulting, who continues to administer the assessment. After a review of materials to set the stage, candidates interact with trained assessors who role play scenarios designed by the FBI. Assessors electronically capture notes and ratings based on the behavioral descriptors prescribed by the FBI to reflect its eight core leadership competencies. All leadership dimensions and subdimensions are scored multiple times within the assessment. A final overall composite score, as well as scores on the separate competencies, are calculated for use in promotion decisions and a comprehensive feedback report that includes developmental recommendations is provided to each candidate.

This first hurdle of the mid-level management promotion process has had measureable impact to the leadership of the FBI; not only did the targeted mid-level leadership positions increase in leadership skill (based on employee ratings), but the executive population later in the pipeline demonstrated twice the increase in leadership skill than the targeted position. This emphasizes both the short-term and long-term utility of the Leadership Skills Assessment for the identification of leadership talent at multiple points within the leadership pipeline.