been on a perpetual book tour of sorts since the hardcover edition came
out a year ago—a book tour not to sell books but ideas, and to engage
hearts and minds over public service. So I spend my time mostly doing
two things: lecturing to students and doing workshops for government
leaders at all levels.
I’ve been delighted by my reception.
Students of public administration are hungry to learn about public
service. They are leaning toward public service because they want to do
important things, but they’re not sure. They’re full of questions:
Is government just too bureaucratic for a person to get
· Do I have to wait years to make a
· Can I say what I think?
And the big question: Can I make a difference?
been able to reassure them on all these questions, and have left all my
sessions more convinced than before of the need for this book, and of
its utility in the classroom.
The hardcover edition is already being
used as a text at several universities. Here are reactions from a few
of the professors using Confessions of a Civil Servant in their courses:
“My students are
enjoying this book so much I have decided to use it again next
—Veronica Cruz, SUNY-Albany
book richly depicts Bob Stone’s experiences in public service. Stone’s
passion for innovation and positive change in government and his
courageous and caring leadership are evident throughout the book. My
students raved about this book!”
—Gary S. Marshall, University of
it’s really like to be a civil servant and to try and create change in
the bureaucracy. It is a wonderful read and filled with important
lessons for anyone in any big organization.”
—Elaine Kamarck, John F. Kennedy
School of Government, Harvard University
as a whole the book gives a rich picture of one person’s 30-year
journey in government service. It describes successes, failures,
mistakes, and learnings, and most important, the possibilities of
making a difference.
But taken chapter by chapter the book can
be the basis for classroom discussions or essays that get students
deeply engaged and teaching themselves. At the end of each chapter the
theme of the chapter is repeated, followed by the lessons from the
chapter. By getting students to discuss the themes and lessons, the
teacher can help the students get the most out of the book and learn
many of the most important issues in public administration.
to start depends on the subject matter of the course. For example, if
the subject is government regulation, Chapters 2 (Shrinking
regulations) and 11 (Strengthening the regulatory process) would be
highly relevant. If the subject is innovation, then Chapters 9
(Encouraging and protecting innovators) and 14(Getting past the
barriers to change) would be relevant. A review of the Table of
Contents will give the reader more ideas.
But what government
needs most is better bosses! The most important lesson in the book is
that public service requires leadership, and leadership can be taught.
That’s why Chapter Fifteen (Ten Lessons in Leadership) is the most
important chapter. I’ve conducted dozens of lectures and workshops for
government leaders built around this chapter. These workshops have been
the most exciting and rewarding experiences of all. Participants have
been fully engaged, and hungry for insights into how they might become
better leaders in public service.
Mid-career public servants and
senior executives are most in need of—and most receptive to—the lessons
in leadership, because, I believe, they have been most subjected to bad
leadership during their career. Study of Chapter 15 can help in two
ways: it can turn around people who have learned and practiced the old
Theory X management style, and it can increase the confidence of people
who want to be a different kind of leader but fear that it’s not the
most effective way to lead. It is!
If students of public
administration and people already in government learn nothing more than
the lessons of Chapter 15, they will be far better prepared for public
service than I was.