Appropriately applies procedures, regulations, standards and policies related to specialized expertise.  Combines expertise, administrative processes, and organizational knowledge to make sound, ethical resource recommendations and/or decisions in support of the mission.   


Accomplishing the Service’s mission is contingent upon its leaders having expertise across a diverse array of disciplines.  The reputation of the FWS is based upon technical credibility in science and in business practices.  The Service is a science based organization, using a high level of technical expertise to make decisions and take actions.  Leaders with specialized knowledge and technical abilities improve the Service’s operations.  They inspire confidence among employees, the American public, customers, Congress, stakeholders, and partners.  A leader with technical knowledge and integrity helps the Service avoid risk from legal and ethical challenges.

How do First Appointment Leaders Demonstrate This Competency?

First Appointment leaders keep up with advances in their discipline.  They ensure that they are operating within the legal, regulatory and policy framework.  They accurately identify problems, evaluate alternatives, and recommend appropriate actions.
They recognize their own limitations and consult with others who have the specific, technical expertise required. They are proactive in working with their teams members to identify developmental opportunities to improve all of their technical skills.  They are recognized as professionals in their field and work to continue to increase their competence and skills.  They are involved in establishing policies and procedures, may present at professional meetings, and are involved in sharing their knowledge by training others, both in training courses and on-the-job.

Elements of the Competency and Distinguishing Behaviors


Distinguishing Behaviors

Demonstrates expertise in their field.

  • Works on research projects in their area of expertise.
  • Teaches others.
  • Participates in professional associations, conferences and meetings.
  • Sets challenging goals for self and group and achieves them.
  • Participates in a community of practice.
  • Actively participates and refreshes fundamentals.
  • Knows where to go for answers to technical questions.
  • Manages assigned projects and ensures completion.

Has a thorough knowledge of their organization.

  • Has a network of other subject matter experts, both internally and externally.
  • Actively maintains/uses the collective knowledge in their network.
  • Makes administrative decisions that follow current Service/organization policies and procedures.
  • Assigns team responsibilities that distribute team work according to the knowledge, skills, and abilities of team members.
  • Works to grow their capacity and capability.
  • Evaluates assignments and determines whether they can be accomplished with their allocated resources.

Understands legal and regulatory policies

  • Knows where to go for advice when a legal or ethical dilemma is present.
  • Understands the policies and laws that guide their field of expertise and can find answers to questions related to that field.
  • Advises others on legal and regulatory guidelines and helps them maintain compliance with standards.

Developmental Activities

There are numerous activities an employee may engage in that provide the opportunity to develop this competency at the First Appointment Leader level.   These activities may include, but are not limited to, on-the-job experience, details, shadow assignments, participating in training as a leader or participant and other life experiences.   These activities provide the opportunity to develop for those dedicated to their individual growth as a leader.  Specific examples of developmental opportunities for this competency include:

Primary Developmental Activities

  • Volunteer to work on a cross-program team.
  • Represent your discipline on a Regional team.
  • Volunteer for a detail to the Regional Office.
  • Detail to a sister agency with a greater scientific technical focus.

Supporting Developmental Activities

Experiential Developmental Details or Assignments

  • Consider a job swap in or outside your field of expertise.
  • Work with NCTC on a course design team, as a peer reviewer, or as an instructor for a course.
  • Write white papers for a Regional Director in your area(s) of expertise.
  • Answer public questions in an open forum as a Service representative.
  • Present Service work to an NGO, and participate in high school job fairs.
  • Maintain a personal library on your discipline, subscribe to professional journals, and ensure your team has the “latest and greatest” publications, and circulate materials.
  • Publish your research/Service work in governmental and intergovernmental publications.
  • Be a mentor to someone junior to you or find a mentor and be a mentee.
  • Look “in your own back yard” for learning opportunities.
  • Be a member of professional association dealing with specific discipline.
  • Consider community involvement within your realm of expertise (science fair judge, volunteer expertise to non-profits, etc).
  • Take advantage of public speaking opportunities and consider becoming a member of your local Toastmasters club.
  • Give presentations at lunch meetings (“brown bag” gatherings).
  • Network and share your experience with others.


  • Apply for the FWS Stepping Up to Leadership Program.
  • Apply for the Wildlife Society Leadership Institute.
  • Do not discount the value of continuing education in your profession.
  • Continue to keep up-to-date on your computer skills and technological knowledge.
  • Attend Critical Writing/Critical Thinking training at NCTC.
  • Consult the DOI Learn training catalog for training in your field of expertise.
  • Consider hiring a consultant in the technology field of interest to tutor you to accelerate your learning.
  • Whenever new technology surfaces, volunteer to learn and try it first.
  • Apply to attend conferences or workshops for a national perspective.

First Appointment Leader Competencies