The Cable

Report: 25 percent of State Department posts have weak leadership

A full quarter of the State’s Department’s overseas posts and Washington, D.C.-based bureaus inspected this year are suffering from weak leadership that the State Department needs to address, according to a new report by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). "OIG’s FY 2012 inspections found that while 75 percent of ambassadors, deputy ...

A full quarter of the State’s Department’s overseas posts and Washington, D.C.-based bureaus inspected this year are suffering from weak leadership that the State Department needs to address, according to a new report by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

"OIG’s FY 2012 inspections found that while 75 percent of ambassadors, deputy chiefs of mission, and principal officers are doing a good to excellent job, 25 percent have weaknesses that, in most cases, have a significant impact on the effectiveness and morale of their posts and certainly warrant intervention by the Department," Acting Inspector General Howard Geisel wrote in a memorandum to Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy that was released by the OIG office today.

Geisel said that the OIG typically inspects posts that are flagged for their attention, so the figure may not represent the total proportion of poorly led posts in the entire State Department. But he added that even those posts that were judged not to have weak leadership could benefit from more feedback and oversight of what’s going on at the top of their shops. Geisel didn’t explain how he determined "weakness" at each post.

"OIG therefore reiterates the importance it places on adopting an effective assessment and performance improvement system for ambassadors, deputy chiefs of mission, and principal officers," Geisel wrote.

The State Department should issue a new section of the Foreign Affairs Handbook to define exactly what leadership and management principles and skills should guide diplomatic officials and should also increase the use of candid surveys to get better feedback about management problems, Geisel said.

In a June memo to State Department Executive Secretary Stephen Mull, Geisel wrote that in high stress postings, 45 percent of respondents cited leadership as a cause of their stress. He also singled out the Bureau of African Affairs, saying that leadership was a problem in "certain posts overseas as well as in the bureau itself under its previous management."

"OIG has found problems in posts in every region, under both career and political ambassadors," Geisel wrote. "The results of poor leadership include reduced productivity and effectiveness, low morale, stress, and curtailments."

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