Is a government leader no more than a figurehead -- the symbolic “face of the organization” who relies on his or her employees in the trenches to actually put the agency’s mission into practice?

For many GovLoop members, the answer is a resounding “No.”

Leadership to many of them is the difference between a government that falters in its service to citizens and one that exceeds their expectations -- and the aspiration to excel begins at the top.

“True leaders are visionaries,” said Charles A. Ray, a GovLoop member and 49-year government employee.

Most community members agreed, arguing that a strong leader empowers subordinates to perform at the highest possible level. In this view, employees accomplish more as a result of a manager removing roadblocks and encouraging contributions than they could complete on their own.

This doesn’t suggest, of course, that leaders deserve all the credit for their agencies’ successes.

“There are wads of other people who ‘get things done.’ The role of the leader is to make sure they are all pointed in the same, and hopefully right, direction,” said analyst Mark Hammer.

Public affairs specialist Dannielle Blumenthal added that a leader’s job is to maintain a positive and constructive work environment where workers can thrive. “Now more than ever, leaders should focus on unifying the troops, engaging them to go above and beyond, and increasing morale by publicly and privately thanking them for their contributions,” she said.

A number of GovLoop members thought there were lessons to be gleaned from the world of professional sports.

While watching the recent NBA and Stanley Cup finals, CEO Ken Boxer drew parallels between success on the court or ice and success as an organizational leader.

The values that are widely believed to result in championships, he said, are applicable when it comes to leading a team in a professional setting. His examples include “If you win, focus on ‘we,’ if you lose, focus on ‘me,’” and “Practice is essential.”

But one commenter offered a note of warning about the perils of leaders who adopt a win-at-all-costs attitude. According to Brady Brookes, an executive assistant at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Wash., a coach’s ethical proclivities strongly influence his players’ mindset. “True leadership is having the integrity to make your actions consistent with your standards of right and wrong. The example to the team will be priceless,” she said.