Skip to main content


VA Leadership Academies

Launched as a pilot program in 2015, in collaboration with The Michael G. Foster School of Business at the University of Washington and the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking (CLST), the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) provides leadership development academies for supervisors, managers, and executives in veteran services. Taught by instructors with an extensive amount of experience working with leaders across a broad spectrum of organizations (including healthcare), the program has now expanded, and we are pleased to announce scholarships to leaders who qualify for enrollment.

These programs are open to other VISNs around the country. For VA participants, the VISN education pays for all of these respective programs. Additional questions about this program should be directed to your local DLOs. If you are not an employee at the VA, but are still interested in a leadership workshop for your company, send us an email at [email protected]

Detailed program information

Currently, the program offers three academies (Leadership, Advanced Leadership, and Executive Leadership) developed with specific audiences and learning objectives in mind. Instructors for all three academies are selected by the Center for Leadership & Strategic Thinking based on their expertise to work in each of these respective programs.

Leadership Academy

This program is for VA supervisors through executives and includes four one-day classes described below. This is the first step in the Academy progression and is a pre-requisite for the next level of leadership development–the Advanced Leadership Academy (see next tab). The Leadership Academy is currently held at each of the New England (VISN 1) facilities and is planned to potentially take place at other VISN locations and healthcare facilities in the future.

Participants attend all four days of training, complete development assessments, and receive one-on-one coaching in order to receive a certificate of completion. As in all of our work at CLST, each class is based on our research findings and best practices in healthcare, as well as many other types of organizations. See the programming schedule below:

This program includes:

  • An online 360 leadership survey that must be completed before attending this program. This survey and the leadership model used in this program is based on extensive research and have been used in public and private organizations around the globe to help facilitate and accelerate leadership development. You’ll complete this 360 survey about yourself and invite your supervisor, peers, and direct reports to provide input. Only you and your coach will receive the results from this survey.
  • One hour of professional leadership coaching is provided to interpret your report and identify a meaningful leadership development goal.
  • Spend a day onsite working with faculty from the University of Washington, Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, with up to 35 leaders from your facility.

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify behaviors in yourself and others that are Authentic, Transformational, or Transactional and understand their impact on relationships, motivation, and performance.
  • Develop greater self-awareness by exploring your core values, narrative, and authentic foundation.
  • Understand Leader Developmental Readiness and ways to increase this state in yourself and others to optimize development opportunities and resources.
  • Identify the four levels of the CLST’s Leadership Development Blueprint and map one current opportunity or challenge to this journey map.
This program includes:

  • An online leadership communications assessment that you must complete before attending this program.
  • One hour of coaching to interpret your report and identify your learning objectives.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand what makes some challenges, engagements, and conversations more difficult and why we might avoid or handle these conversations less effectively.
  • Identify and understand causes of conflict and how to monitor and manage your reactions during conflict.
  • Learn how to coach others through difficult conversations and situations.
  • Articulate the risks and appropriate uses of communication to effectively navigate difficult situations on up through transformative challenges.
  • Move to commitment and action with another party as a result of more effective use of leadership and coaching/communication knowledge and skills.

This program includes:

  • A focus on what constitutes effective coaching communication and mentoring.
  • Practice in receiving and using a full range of communication and mentoring skills.
  • Developing a plan on how to use these skills to enhance your leadership, communications, and mentoring.

The Onboarding process: In this workshop, you will learn about a model of coaching and mentoring communications that can improve your management and leadership skills. This workshop will help you to move effectively to engage in a full range of conversations with your followers, peers, supervisors, and/or veterans whether mentoring or coaching them.

Skills Enhancements: The coaching/mentoring workshop enables experienced, highly-competent staff, to pass their expertise on to others who need to acquire specified skills.

Where the lessons learned in this workshop can be applied:

Professional Identity: Early-in-career employees (especially those new to the federal workplace) need help understanding what it means to be a professional in their work environment. Coaching/mentoring plays a key role in defining professional behavior for new employees. This is most important when employees first enter the federal workforce because they don’t know what they don’t know, and you can help coach and mentor them through that early period of their employment.

Career Development: Coaching/mentoring helps employees plan, develop, and manage their day-to- day work and ultimately their careers. It also helps them become more resilient in times of change, more self-reliant in their careers, and more responsible as self-directed learners.

Leadership and Management Development
: Coaching/mentoring encourages the development of your leadership skills and communication strategies. These skills and strategies are often more easily gained by example, guided practice, or experiences, which you will engage in during and following this workshop.

Education Support: Coaching/mentoring helps bridge the gap between theory and practice. Formal education and training is complemented by the knowledge and hands-on experience of a competent practitioner helping you and others to develop.

Organizational Development and Culture Change: Coaching/mentoring can help communicate the values, vision, and the mission of the organization, and to help others to do so, as well, via the coaching/mentoring communications model used in this workshop. Also, building a one-to-one relationship can especially help new employees understand the organizational culture and make any necessary changes to adapt to that culture/values.

Customer Service: Coaching/mentoring assists in encouraging each of us to think about what constitutes exemplary service and how to communicate and model desired behaviors, while encouraging the development of competencies in support of customer service, and above all, cultivating the right perspectives about what exemplary service means.

Staff retention: Coaching/mentoring provides an encouraging and psychologically safe environment through ongoing interactions and role modeling that facilitates progression within the organization. Coaching/mentoring has been found to influence employee retention because it helps establish an organizational climate and culture that is attractive to the top talent who are clamoring for growth opportunities. Coaching/mentoring is a tangible way to show employees that they are valued and that your organization’s future includes them.

Recruitment: Coaching/mentoring can enhance recruitment goals by offering additional incentives to prospective employees, who increasingly today, want a greater focus on their own development.

Knowledge Management/Knowledge Transfer:
 Coaching/mentoring provides for the interchange/exchange of information/knowledge between members of different organization.

This program includes:

  • Learning a process model for setting up effective team engagements/meetings.
  • Developing a plan and goal to implement more effective engagements within and between teams.
  • Demos and practice on how to be more effective when convening meetings or team engagements.

It is impossible to be part of any large or small organization and not lead and manage groups, meetings, or even larger gatherings. Staff meetings, project meetings, team meetings, task force meetings, and planning meetings are a part of the every-day routine of working in all organizations and the ways it can be done vary extensively.

We know from research that many of the meetings in organizations are poorly run, not well-organized, and can waste time, as well as energy – both extremely valuable resources for any organization. There is a growing recognition, both internal and external to government organizations that effective engagements, including meetings, happen when proper attention is paid to the process elements and when the proceedings are skillfully designed and facilitated.

This workshop is an opportunity for supervisors to develop the leadership, coaching and facilitation skills necessary to navigate their respective teams through project meetings in an efficient and effective manner, thus reducing time wasted and maximizing performance. The focus is not just a formal meeting, but any time you as a leader and manager engage others.

For information about whether the Leadership Academy programs are right for you, see your local Designated Learning Officer.

Advanced Leadership Academy

Offered two to three times per year, this world-class, evidence-based program is for supervisors through executives. The Advanced Academy includes one highly interactive three-day workshop (as described below) and is the second step in Leadership Academy progression. Completion of the four-course Leadership Academy (see previous tab) is a pre-requisite for applying to the Advanced Academy. You must complete all three consecutive days of training to have successfully completed the Advanced Leadership Academy. The Advanced Leadership Academy is currently held at VISN 1 Headquarters in Bedford, MA and is planned to take place at other potential VISN locations in the future.

This program includes:

  • A blueprint for guiding and promoting your leadership development.
  • Real scenarios and challenges that you can practice enhancing your full range of leadership and management styles.
  • In-the-moment coaching on how to work through difficult challenges that you have brought to the workshop to address.
  • Examination of your confidence and readiness to move forward to lead more effectively.

Learning objectives:

  • Develop deeper self-awareness — the cornerstone of Authentic Leadership — through exploring your Integrity and Emotional Bank Account.
  • Articulate ways to build trust and psychological safety, which makes people comfortable voicing their views.
  • Develop greater empathy for different styles and values, in order to expand your Transformational Leadership capacity.
  • Practice a balanced processing/justice leadership orientation–another aspect of Authentic Leadership.
  • Articulate criteria for effective group decision-making.
  • Articulate common behaviors of inspirational leaders.
  • Identify an objective/goal for advancing your future leadership development.

Executive Leadership Academy

This world-class Transformational Leadership Development Program (TLDP) program consists of three 2-day Leadership Development Intensive (LDI) seminars that are spaced several months apart, along with executive coaching and a series of developmental assessments interspersed to examine individual, team, and strategic leadership development. This is the third step in Leadership Academy progression. Typically, you must first complete both the four-course Leadership Academy and the Advanced Academy. The Executive Leadership Academy is currently held at VISN 1 Headquarters in Bedford, MA and is planned to take place at other potential VISN locations in the future.

The TLDP is designed to focus on developing individual, team, and strategic leadership grounded in research and designed to be optimally relevant to the challenges and opportunities being faced in any organization.

Each session includes customized key learning objectives, along with experiential learning and activities designed to reinforce concepts, models, and leadership development.

Summary of the Program Elements:

  • Three (3) two-day in-person workshops
  • Eight (8) individual executive coaching sessions
  • Eight (8) peer learning group coaching sessions
  • Periodic assessments, including your Developmental Readiness, Psychological Resources, and pre- & post-academy Full Range Leadership 360 surveys.
  • Strategic Project Team comprised of 3-5 Academy participants applying Academy concepts and learning to a real work strategy project.

Topics Covered:

  • Leadership Development Blueprint
  • Authentic Leadership
  • Leading Change
  • Transformational Leadership
  • Transactional Leadership
  • Leader Developmental Readiness
  • Team Dynamics
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Positive Psychological Resources and Capital
  • Developing and Adaptive and Transformative Culture
  • Stewarding and Organization Toward the Future
  • Supporting Development through Transfomative Coaching Conversations

Learning objectives:

  • Develop a deeper level of leader self-awareness — the cornerstone of Authentic Leadership — through exploring your Moral/Ethical Standards, Integrity, Resiliency, and Positive Psychological Capital, i.e., hope, confidence, optimism, and resiliency.
  • Articulate and practice ways to build trust and promote psychological safety where people are comfortable voicing their views.
  • Articulate one’s personal leadership narrative and brand, including one’s core values and core principles underlying effective leadership.
  • Identify a goal for advancing your future leadership development and articulate your objectives and way to measure success.
  • Identify strategies for fostering purpose and ownership in yourself and others.
  • Learn and apply practices to support effective team dynamics, planning and performance.
  • Increase understanding of innovation and change at an organizational-level.
  • Apply program learning to real organizational project with ELA strategic project team, and provide summation of learning and progress in end-of-program project report out to VISN 1 Network Director.
  • Connect with and learn from leaders within your organization.
  • Practice applying tools, skills, and concepts from ELA to real organizational and leadership challenges.

Program Participant Commitments:

  • Attendance at all in-person workshops
  • Participating in team strategic project meetings
  • Completing online leadership assessments
  • Meeting with executive coaches for 1:1 and peer learning coaching
  • Complete advance readings & reflection activities
  • Time commitment: 5 hours monthly on average

Evaluation and Measure of Impact:
In addition to measuring individual-leader development over time via pre and post-academy 360-degree assessments of leader behaviors, the Center for Leadership & Strategic Thinking also measures impact of leader development within the organization by integrating team-based strategic projects as a core component of the Executive Leadership Academy.

Strategic Projects: Project teams are comprised of 3-5 leaders from the Academy cohort. Teams identify one strategic project on which they can work throughout the duration of the Academy. Teams work with their CLST Leadership coach and fellow Academy participants to specify the scope of project, how progress will be measured, who key stakeholders are, and anticipated impact of desired outcomes. Teams will provide updates on project status at the in-person workshops. At the final workshop session, each team will provide a briefing, including overall impact (cost-reduction, increased patient-safety, etc.), to the VISN 1 Network Director who will provide feedback. Most projects are judged by their ROI, and in past Academies, the ROI on the investment in the Academy and projects was over 10X!

Previous Executive Leadership Academy Projects Include:

  • Improving formal communications infrastructure
  • Improving access to primary care
  • Improving patient flow for walk-in patients
  • Overtime reduction in Pharmacy
  • Improving in-patient flow

Sample Program Overview:
Each session includes customized key learning objectives/goals, along with experiential learning and activities designed to reinforce concepts, models, and leadership development. Each session also includes real leadership challenge cases brought by Academy participants and leaders within the organization and in-the-moment coaching and consulting practice. Below is a sample program overview.

Sessions Topic(s)
Session 1 LDI: Developing Self Leadership Leadership Development Blueprint Framework
Feedback on Your Leader Developmental Readiness
Authentic Leadership Foundation
Session 2 LDI: Developing Interactive Leadership and Generative Leadership Foundational Leadership Models and Action Logics
Developing Meaning, Purpose, and Ownership
Creating Positive Team Dynamics & Processes
Building Trust and Positive Psychological Capital
Session 3 LDI: Developing Strategic Leadership and Stewardship Addressing Organizational Transformation Resources to Promote Change and Development
Learning the LENS Model of Strategic Thinking and applying the model to real challenges
Developing an Adaptive and Transformative Culture
Stewarding Your Organization to be Better and Able to Lead Forward

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the policies for canceling one’s participation in the program?
Local DLOs should be notified of any cancellations once they have applied at least 4 weeks before the start of the program.

2. What is the policy for being absent or not showing up for the program?
Local DLO should be notified at least 4 weeks prior to the start of the program.

3. Whom should I contact with questions about the program?
Your local DLOs.