Six Part Series – SES ECQ Leadership Competencies – ECQ 1: Leading Change

With the recent publication of the Second Edition of “The New SES Application” (December 2015), I am starting a new series to explain the Senior Executive Service (SES) Executive Core Qualification (ECQ) statements. This series is focused on the leadership competencies required of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to be certified to obtain a SES position. Leading Change is part 1 of 6 in this series: The SES ECQ Leadership Competencies. At the conclusion, you will have the tools you need to help you focus your stories on the leadership competencies including tips for story development.
By Diane Hudson, Co-Author, The New SES Application

ECQ 1: Leading Change

The Executive Core Qualification (ECQ) statements are broken down into five categories:

Leading Change | Leading People | Results Driven | Business Acumen | Building Coalitions

Each ECQ category has leadership competencies that are required to be addressed within each ECQ essay. Each ECQ typically has two stories – and the associated leadership competencies can be woven through both stories.

Leading Change has six leadership competences that need to be clearly addressed:

Creativity and Innovation: Develops new insights into situations; questions conventional

approaches; encourages new ideas and innovations; designs and implements new or cutting-edge



External Awareness: Understands and keeps up-to-date on local, national, and international

policies and trends that affect the organization and shape stakeholders’ views; is aware of the

organization’s impact on the external environment.


Flexibility: Is open to change and new information; rapidly adapts to new information,

changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles.


Resilience: Deals effectively with pressure; remains optimistic and persistent, even under

adversity. Recovers quickly from setbacks.


Strategic Thinking: Formulates objectives and priorities, and implements plans consistent with

long-term interests of the organization in a global environment. Capitalizes on opportunities;

manages risks.


Vision: Takes a long-term view and builds a shared vision with others; acts as a catalyst for

organizational change. Influences others to translate vision into action.


Leading Change needs to focus on organizational or performance management change, rather than process change. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) ECQ scoring grid states: ‘This core qualification involves the ability to bring about strategic change to meet organizational goals, both within and outside the organization. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to establish an organizational vision and to implement it in a continuously changing environment. Candidates need to emphasize the Strategic Thinking and Vision competencies of this ECQ. Rather than simply describing loosely connected activities and actions taken to implement a program or initiative, candidates must clearly describe how those actions were part of an intentional, strategic, and systematic effort to lead and implement a change effort.’

When developing actions for Leading Change, think about your vision for how the organization will operate after the change. Describe the challenges you encountered and how you remained flexible and resilient in your efforts to lead others to embrace the new change. Include information about the level of people you communicated with and your interactions with external stakeholders, your development of or application of policies, and how the work you accomplished has national / wide-ranging impact.

In the results paragraph, describe the situation or condition of the “before” the change, and “after” the change. Comparisons work well when describing the “change” element of the story. And, be sure to tie the results to the challenge – so that the story has a logical beginning, middle, and end.


Ask yourself these questions:

“What will change; from what to what?”

“How did the results affect organizational performance?”

“What other organizations were affected by the change?”

“What was your role in leading the change?”

Remember, the executive leadership stories need to be written in first-person narrative and focused on your accomplishments – rather than the accomplishments of others. Use “I” statements in the stories instead of “We” statements.

If you need additional assistance, check out our newly updated book (December 2015), The New SES Application, or visit our Services page for a quote. Diane can also deliver hands-on training in ECQ writing at your agency.

Writing the Traditional ECQs and the Five-Page Senior Executive Service Resume

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Diane Hudson (Burns) is a multi-credentialed career coach, executive resume writer and editor, specializing in posturing federal and non-federal employees to enter the federal government’s Senior Executive Service (SES). She is co-author of The New SES Application, the first book written about the five-page SES federal resume and the traditional 10-page ECQ format. Diane is an experienced trainer in Senior Executive Service, ECQ/TQ, KSA and federal resume writing topics for SES Candidate Development Program candidates. Agency instruction experience includes Commander’s Leadership Development Program at the Naval Shipyard, Air Force Headquarters, U.S. Army Missile Command, FEMA, Defense Acquisition University (Fellows), EPA, PTO, and others. Diane is an instructor for military employment readiness specialists and retiring military; as well as train-the-trainer at career industry conferences internationally on outplacement and career search topics.

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