NPS Leadership Development for the 21st Century


Are you ready to lead your park or program into the second century of stewardship? Meeting this challenge will require changing how we have traditionally approached leadership development. Changing visitor demographics will require present and future NPS leaders to become more proactive and less reactionary.

Leardership expert, Roselinde Torres spent a year researching what makes a great leader in the 21st century. She shares her findings in this TED Talk and gives us a roadmap to apply to leadership development within the National Park Service.

What You’ll Find

  • How to prepare for future change in your park or program.
  • How diversity in your network is beneficial for dealing with change.
  • Are you willing to take a risk and embrace change?
  • Video duration – 9:19

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  1. While I enjoy TED Talks, it’s often tough to translate them to the NPS, what we do, and how we do it. But with this one, it’s pretty funny how, even though she’s talking about private sector companies, she sounds like she’s taken the words right from NPS folks! Example: “Fifty-eight percent of the companies cited significant talent gaps for critical leadership roles. That means that despite corporate training programs, off-sites, assessments, coaching, all of these things, more than half the companies had failed to grow enough great leaders. You may be asking yourself, is my company helping me to prepare to be a great 21st-century leader? The odds are, probably not.” I’ve heard those exact phrases at work before.

    And: “I noticed that, despite all the efforts, there were familiar stories that kept resurfacing about individuals. One story was about Chris, a high-potential, superstar leader who moves to a new unit and fails, destroying unrecoverable value. And then there were stories like Sidney, the CEO, who was so frustrated because her company is cited as a best company for leaders, but only one of the top 50 leaders is equipped to lead their crucial initiatives. And then there were stories like the senior leadership team of a once-thriving business that’s surprised by a market shift, finds itself having to force the company to reduce its size in half or go out of business.” I KNOW THOSE PEOPLE.

    And while she doesn’t say anything earth-shattering, the talk has nice talking points for trying to navigate becoming a 21st c. leader. Example: relying on traditional development practices will stunt your growth as a leader.


  2. I think it comes down to how badly we want the NPS to remain relevant. What constitutes meaningful visitor experiences is so varied and is changing so quickly…it’s going to take forward thinking leaders to get us “there”

  3. Interesting Ted Talk on Leadership. The speaker notes that great leaders 1. Anticipate Change 2. Have diverse people in their network 3. Are courageous enough to step outside their comfort zone.

    I’ve heard all of these in other books / articles / talk. I’m afraid that she shared nothing that I would consider new material. I’m not sure of the time frame, but it would have helped if she could have elaborated and given some concrete examples of each point.

    She could have considered noting the importance of interpersonal skills, although it might have been inferred.

    I didn’t see new material here and it doesn’t seem to be helpful without some solid examples.


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