By Bill Colwell, Jr., MEd
Donn Gaede, a faculty member at Loma Linda University School of Public Health, sent me an article the other day. It was filled with enough data to spur me to action, but what caught my attention were these two lines:
“(Yet… ) the visionary leadership required to tackle (such public health) problems is sadly lacking. Over the last year, every major leadership position on the global health landscape has turned over, creating an unprecedented moment of strategic uncertainty.”*
Do you see? 1) Visionary leadership is lacking; 2) Leadership positions have turned over; and 3) We are at an unprecedented moment of uncertainty.
There is a fundamental flaw in inferring that visionary leadership will or must be contained in positions of leadership. This article brings to my mind that leadership preparation, promoting visionary activities in uncertainty, needs more support in the education of health service providers. Just as we have management courses and programs, having leadership courses and programs fills a societal need.
Leadership disciplines and principles are indeed good for the MBA or MPH student. They are equally good for the MD, PhD, MEd, or MDiv—or whatever. Leadership principles and skills are vital for the mechanic or sanitation worker, and they are vital for the person flipping burgers in the local fast food joint. Do you get my point? From birth to grave, “leadership” principles and disciplines are in dire need in every industry—nay—every life in the world.
Leadership is about:
There are many great leaders inside and outside of positions of authority. Great leaders are often marginalized, discounted, and persecuted—but not easily ignored. Three of my favorites, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and Jesus, met death unnaturally.
It is true that positions of leadership can support or inhibit visionaries. But indeed a visionary leader may have a position of authority. However, we should be careful not to shift the burden of visionary leadership in uncertain times simply to positions of leadership. Health service providers of all types and positions have ideas, dreams, and visions. Innovation will result from empowering these people through the systematic development of their leadership skills and disciplines. These skills and disciplines would do well to be woven into the fabric of other academic courses, but also, we become negligent if we don’t provide courses and programs in leadership.
Imagine a world where the individual health care service provider practices leadership principles and skills. Where they join voices with other health care service providers, community stake-holders, businesses, insurers, government agencies, and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to shape, innovate, and create improvements in health services.
*If you wish to view the entire article by Garrett, Laurie, Challenge of Global Health, The, RealClearPolitics.com, go to their site.