March 25, 2014

Boards of all kinds are critical to the successful functioning of their organizations or agencies. In the area of public health, many of these boards have been ineffective. Although many of these health boards were conceived as governing bodies as far back as the late 1700′s by the early board member Paul Revere, they have not understood their missions. Boards have been places for older persons to take on a service role in a retirement pay back to the community philosophy. Many board members have been appointed du e to their support for a county commissioner. This post will begin a discussion on what a board need to be in the future. First, a board member is a trustee of the community that he serves. He/she should not see themselves as volunteers with little authority or responsibility. Trustees make policy and volunteers usually do not. Board members need to be leaders with management and leadership experience. Policy-making is an important leadership role.Second, boards are governing bodies.

Third, boards of health have six functions which have been designated by the National Association of Local Boards of Health. The six functions are listed in the next table.

Finally, the characteristics of a board member as a leader has been discussed in detail by Charam and colleagues in the book “BOARD LEADERSHIP.”

I will be discussing boards in more postings in future months.


February 26, 2014

In my last posting I mentioned the importance of resilience as a characteristic of a leader. Leaders also realize that it is not tools that make a leader but rather how those tools are used. It is also leadership in practice that provides the real world of leadership for an individual. I have noticed a key difference between students who have limited or no work experience and students who are working in the way they react to a leadership development course. For students in the first group, the content seems abstract while the working student sees the content in a practice modality.

I have used many leadership tools over the years. I have tried some of the fad techniques at times and found some of these tools useful for me as a leader and some of them not so useful. I have continued to use some of the tools even when the fad ended because the tools continued to be useful. An interesting happening is the rediscovery of long ago rejected tools when a new leadership event required the use of an old fad tool. All of this is meant to make the argument that I am not the same leader I was ten years ago or even last month. Leadership is an evolving process nurtured by the new books I read each month, my blog where I test ideas, new work experiences and the new people that I meet. More recently, I have become better at communication as I try different characters in a play reading group that my wife and I have joined. Over the years I have also learned to use skills and approaches from multiple disciplines. Although I trained as a sociologist, I am also a public health professional, a psychologist, an economist, a political scientist, an epidemiologist, a management consultant, and a leadership scholar and practitioner. I collaborate more with people from all these disciplines and we work together on new approaches to problem solving and decision making. Frans Johanssen calls this creative approach from a multidisciplinary perspective, work at the intersection.

The great lesson about the evolution of a leader is leadership doesn’t stop at age 65. It can last a lifetime. The context of our work is also different all the time. Leaders can always be excited by the many new opportunities that their leadership brings about although I do admit that stress still exists.


January 25, 2014

Most leadership writers try to give their readers a model for action that will help these leadership readers become more effective and efficient. However, no model is perfect. Unanticipated events or people reactions are not often included in these leadership paradigms. This posting will look at thirteen consequences related to leadership response. Leaders need to be realistic and react in a flexible manner as events unfold in different contexts. Here are thirteen reality-based leadership lessons:

  1. Not all team members do the work.
  2. It is your managers that make you like your job.
  3. Most people don’t change. The weaknesses remain. Play to the person’s strengths.
  4. Lists and steps don’t solve problems but can guide actions that are process-based.
  5. Talent and competency guide action. Talent can only be enhanced but not taught.
  6. Not all leaders are the same.
  7. No matter how good a job you do, you can still lose your job.
  8. Training does not give you all the answers.
  9. All plans lead to unexpected results.
  10. Don’t expect politicians or elected or appointed officials to value what you do.
  11. Resilience is the secret weapon of leadership.
  12. People don’t want change and they use budget to justify their resistance.
  13. Age is not a good reason to dump professionals on the trash heap.

Perhaps my readers can add reality-based lessons to this list.


November 30, 2013

It is hard to imagine a family functioning without leadership skills. Families need a 100% commitment on the part of the parents. If one or both parents are working, the 100% commitment needs to occur through the shared leadership of both parents working together. Justice Sotamayor said that her 100% commitment to her career and her dream to be a judge meant that she would need to forego a personal family life for herself. It is difficult to create a balance between work and family when you make a total commitment to career. A 50% commitment to work means that you have only a 50% time available to your family. Thus, two working parents need to compromise so that a 100% commitment becomes possible. The parent who commits totally to the family allows the other parent to commit to work at a higher percentage

Shared leadership involves joint decision-making and the sharing of home responsibilities. Children increase the complexity of family life from reevaluating parental responsibilities, providing for alternate child care when the parents have outside responsibilities, determination of required and voluntary external responsibilities, and adjustments for different leadership styles of each parent. As the children get older, parents will need to develop mentoring skills and skills in delegation. Delegation of home responsibilities will increase as children grow. In addition, the parental leaders will have to learn how to deal with conflict and learn techniques for resolving conflicts and using negotiation strategies. Parents will also need to become good managers of the households resources. Budgeting is an important part of home management. Food preparation also requires management skills. In fact, working people can learn much from leaders at home which serves as excellent preparation for leadership in the work environment.


October 27, 2013

Many Americans are disenchanted with their elected officials. The recent national deliberations over the budget and the closing of the Federal government and also the conflict over the raising of the debt limit brought the American society to a standstill. The Founding Fathers must have been turning over in their graves. Yet, many did not understand what was going on. Many didn’t care. Some have argued that our society is selfish, prejudiced, pro-gun, anti-immigrant, anti-government, anti-poor, anti-Islamic, and maybe just anti-everything, We need to step back and look at what our democracy stands for. Politics must be more than character assassination. This posting will look at the characteristics of a politician that is also a leader.

A politician needs to be civil to other politicians. Collaboration should be the major orientation to the political process. After all, politics is about change and transformation, The goal of the political process is to improve our quality of life. Political leaders need to find was to address society’s challenges in a civil manner and within budgetary parameters. An elected official needs to not only the people who elected him or her but also the needs and perspectives of those that did not vote for him or her. The leader must not ignore, for example, the 30-50 percent of the population that did not vote for him or her. The political leader needs to study the community and understand all the needs of all the people in his or her jurisdiction. Respect for the President , the Governor , or Mayor is critical in a democratic society. In fact, the political leader needs to show respect for all his or her constituencies. People first and then money concern must be the guiding principle for the political process. Political process must not only be concerned with lobbyists and their financial contributions It sometimes seems that politicians are not concerned with the Bill of Rights unless it relates to their political agendas.

In summary, here are ten characteristics for a political leader:

    1 Civil

    2. Collaborative

    3. Transformative for society’s good

    4. Respect for others

    5.Willing to compromise

    6. Represent all the people not just the followers of their political party

    7. Support the Constitution and the Bill of Rights

    8. Set governmental priorities from a people-first approach, but within budgetary constraints

    9. Work together and share the leadership

    10.Make passed legislation implementable even if you don’t completely agree with it


September 29, 2013

Americans love sports and games. We spend a great amount of time watching sports. We will often reject some social events if it will mean that we would miss watching a specific sports event on television. We often thank our creator for TIVO or other device that will let s watch our favorite sports later in time. Being a spectator is a passive event. However, these events do teach us about sportsmanship. They also show us many examples of non-sportsman ship like activities like the violence which seems to be part of most hockey games. We have also incorporated these spectator events which allows us to have a party with friends while we watch a sports event. Superbowl day has almost become a holiday with all sorts of food and socializing. By now, you should be asking the question of what this all has to do with leadership. To answer this question, we need to distinguish between being a spectator and a participant.

Leaders are more than spectators. They are participants. They learn many things from playing games and participating in sports. They learn about working in teams. They learn about rules of the game and how to take the lead in games. They learn about collaboration and working together to accomplish certain ends. They learn to deal with conflict and its resolution. They see that each member of the team can affect outcome only with the cooperation of all the team members. Teams exist in many parts of the leader’s life from our family, our religion, our community, and our society as a whole. Our lives are governed by our beliefs and values. Leaders know that we must understand our culture and how to help our communities accept change. In previous columns, I have discussed how leaders develop their personal leadership skills. This blog posting begins to explore how we learn our team-building leadership skills.


August 29, 2013

Over the last four decades, I have read hundreds of books on leadership and management. I have held leadership roles and taught people about leadership and how to be a leader. Despite my life in leadership study, I still have many questions that are left unanswered or only partially answered. I would like to share some of my questions, I have my own partial answers but wonder how my readers would answer these questions. Here we go:

  1. How come there are so many conflicting definitions of leadership?
  2. Why doesn’t any theory seem to fit my leadership challenges?
  3. Where does biology impact my leadership?
  4. How come I can’t use my leadership skills in all situations and contexts?
  5. If I am such an excellent leader, why do I have so much trouble using my leadership skills at home?
  6. Why doesn’t my boss realize that I am a leader?
  7. When I retire, how come I cannot let go of my organization?
  8. Why do I have trouble letting my direct reports lead?
  9. For my health-based colleagues, how will my leadership and my organization be affected by the Affordable Care Act?
  10. How do I lead in a government agency?

How would you answer these questions/ Share your answers with your colleagues. What questions would you add to my list?


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