The National Association of State Chief Administrators (NASCA) continually works to provide valuable resources to state chief administrators (SCAs), the public officials in charge of departments that provide support services to other state agencies. While some research exists on the functional roles of SCAs, there is little information on the skills needed for SCAs to be successful in their jobs. The average length of appointment for most SCAs is about 2.7 years. Since the vast majority of SCAs are appointed by the Governor and serve at the Governor’s pleasure, it is a role with a limited transition period. For many SCAs, the job begins as a sprint from Day 1.
To help new SCAs quickly adjust to the job and experienced SCAs improve how they do their jobs, we decided to look at the state of effective practice among successful SCAs rather than rely on theory or academic research. The unique nature of this job makes peer-to-peer insights and advice very valuable. In the private sector, organizations are increasingly identifying core competencies, or trainable attributes, for leadership roles in their hiring and continuing education practices. They do so to maintain a competitive edge in the management of their organizations. Likewise, in light of the Great Recession, state governments have to be managed efficiently and effectively. By highlighting core competencies that are speciﬁc to the jobs SCAs oversee, our goal was to make this report both practical and actionable.
With Fels Research & Consulting leading the research, NASCA produced this report, What it Takes to Be a Successful State Chief Administrator: Core Competencies for Effective Leadership, to serve as a basic guide for any SCA or to help governors seeking to appoint an SCA identify speciﬁc skills in a new hire. This report is sensitive to the fact that no two SCAs face the same challenges or operate in the same environment. The core competencies presented here are meant to be adapted by SCAs based on their unique circumstances.
As a former state chief administrator, I have often said it was the best and most interesting job that I have ever had. Through my involvement with NASCA and my continued interactions with SCAs, I have seen the SCA role evolve into one of increasing importance. The leadership that SCAs provide can truly make a difference in how state government conducts its business, reforms itself, and even in the public perception of state employees and state government. A report like this would have been helpful to have read before I took office. We hope that any SCA who reads this report will ﬁnd the insights useful.