Top-notch leadership is a critical component not only for achieving higher performance in government, but also for driving employee satisfaction.

A just-released report on the “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,” however, reveals that while leadership ratings by federal employees have been steadily improving, those ratings still rank poorly relative to other measures that contribute to employee satisfaction and performance.

For the seventh time in a row, effective leadership was the primary factor driving employee satisfaction and commitment in the federal workplace, according to a report by the Partnership for Public Service.

The report found that leadership continued to be one of the lowest-rated workplace categories, compared to other measures of satisfaction, including work-life balance, teamwork, diversity and pay, with a score of just 52.8 out of 100 in the rankings.
This is one in a series of reports on the 2012 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government. For more news and insights on innovations at work in government, please sign up for the AOL Gov newsletter. For the quickest updates, like us on Facebook.

The scores are based on a survey of federal government employees conducted earlier this year by the Office of Personnel Management. The leadership category measures the extent to which employees believe leaders at all levels of an organization generate motivation and commitment, encourage integrity, and manage people fairly, while also promoting the professional development and empowerment.

While employees’ supervisors generally received high marks, their rating of senior leaders scored typically a dozen points lower. And compared to last year, the majority of large, mid-size and smaller agencies and subcomponents registered lower levels of satisfaction with their managers; although there were a number of agencies that showed significant improvements in leadership ratings as well.

Perhaps the largest drag on leadership ratings resulted from federal workers giving low marks for feeling empowered and fully engaged. That’s a more influential factor in satisfaction than whether a worker is happy, according to the report. Typically the larger the agency, the less empowered employees felt, based on empowerment scores.

“It’s about how effective an agency leader can be in motivating the workforce,” said John Palguta, the Partnership’s vice president for policy. “If you hate your job and hate your boss, you may show up every day, but you are not engaged,” said Palguta.

Among the largest agencies, NASA came in first in the survey’s category on effective leadership. In midsize agencies, the FDIC scored at the top, and among small agencies, the Surface Transportation Board, won the top spot. And the Department of Homeland Security came in last among big agencies.

NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver said the survey showed the workforce understands the agency’s goals. “The report is an affirmation that NASA employees are energized,” Garver said.

On the downside, employee ratings for effective leadership at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative were the lowest of any agency surveyed, with a score of 35.7 out of 100.

Following are the top five agencies for leadership ratings at large, mid-size, and small federal agencies, and agency subcomponents. The full rankings and analysis are at the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work website.

Large Agencies – Index Scores

Mid-Size Agencies – Index Scores

Small Agencies – Index Scores

Agency Subcomponents – Index Scores