February 26, 2015

In my post for September 2009, I introduced my concept of ecological leadership.  “Ecological leaders are committed to the development of their personal talents, leadership skills and competencies throughout their professional careers while at the same time being committed to the appropriate applications of their skills in their communities’ changing {health} and health care priorities.” All leadership takes place within the context of a community or organization.  The community or organization is affected by culture, values, and of course the relationship between individuals.  A given leader seems to function effectively and efficiently in some environments and not in others. An organization reaches out through its Board of Directors to search for the kind of leader that will address its organization’s  challenges in the most effective manner.   The leader’s style, bag of leadership tricks, methods of leadership practices. ability to address problems relative to the organization’s values, and the ability to change the culture to make it more responsive to the needs of the organization will all be needed for ecological change at the system’s level.  The secret to effective leadership at the community level requires skills in relationship building and collaboration through trust.  The above discussion is evidence of the importance of the space and culture factors in ecological leadership.

Time is also important.  What has happened historically in an organization or community provides the foundation for understanding today’s challenges. Solutions to challenges take place today and may already be obsolete if new challenges have happened during the problem-solving or decision-making phase.  Events external to a given organization or community may impact possible methods and techniques that address various challenges.  A challenge in one section of an organization or community can affect other parts of the organization or community.  Einstein argued that the time factor is complex and does not occur in a simple linear approach.  Time needs to be considered in the ecological model that is being presented.  One leader’s approach to time may well differ from another leader’s approach.  Please think of these concepts and follow me as we take a journey(another ecological concept) to explore ecological leadership and its relationship to other theories and models of  leadership.






January 9, 2015

At the start of a new year, many individuals create a list of resolutions. However, most of these lists get lost or forgotten after a few weeks. Leaders tend to make goals for action on a regular basis and they tend to try to make their goals real and also try to make them happen. Resolutions are in reality goals for action. Here are ten goals leaders to make happen:

  1. Read at least two books a month-one leadership book and one book from another interest area.
  2. Develop a mentoring or coaching relationship with one potential or practicing leader a year.
  3. Have dinner with your family at least five times a week- if possible every night. Do not allow phone interruptions.
  4. Attend at least on leadership course or workshop a year.
  5. Make social justice an integral part of your leadership activities.
  6. Be synergistic. Integrate tools and skill development methodologies from multiple approaches to leadership.
  7. Continue to study culture, value frameworks, and organizational dynamics.
  8. Share leadership with others. Be a team-builder.
  9. Skow passion in all things
  10. Collaborate. Collaborate. Collaborate.


December 15, 2014

Over the last several years, I have tweeted on Twitter and made posts on Facebook about leadership. I thought thati will pick some of these statements as a guide to Christmas 2014.

December 1-Not making a decision is a decision

December 2-Engagement makes leadership work. Not disengagement.

December 3-Our Founding Fathers were leaders. Their modern counterparts have    forgotten how leadership works.

December 4-Leadership is possible on Sunday or any day.

December 5-Leadership can make you healthy.

December 6-Charisma is not an excuse for poor leadership.

December 7-The past is not often an indicator of what will happen in the future.

December 8-It is possible to practice leadership as a retiree.

December 9-Although leadership is local, it is continually impacted by national and international events.

December 10-Many politicians lie to their constituents in order to get elected or reelected.

December 11-Your view of the world will expand if you change your seat from time to time.

December 12-Life is all about the building of relationships.

December 13-Our country is not as well prepared as it should be for disasters of all kinds.

December 14-Leadership is as much about your heart as it is about your mind.

December 15-Leaders should protect our values and not undermine them.

December 16-Everybody seems to have answers but forget what the questions are.

December 17=Civility still exists at the neighborhood level but clearly not at the national level.

December 18-Leadership is not about popularity. It is about trust and respect.

December 19-Leadership is good for the soul.

December 20-Leadership is about action and not about position.

December 21-Leaders create goals for the future but they know today is our reality.

December 22-A new year gives each of us the chance to renew and reflect on our lives.

December 23-Progress is about Yes and not about No.

December 24-To lead or not to lead, that is the question.

December 25-There is no social capital without human capital first.





November 30, 2014

Have you noticed how successful leaders look? They seem positive at all times. They seem vigorous and energetic. They appear excited with the game. They love innovation and see change as a positive force. They love meeting new people and excel at building relationships. Being a leader is often a healthy endeavor. Research supports this in that the traits of leaders are seen as healthy although leadership is often not mentioned as a healthy outlet for these skills. So let us begin to explore how to make your leadership activities healthy.

First, married people tend to be healthier than single people. Leaders who balance work and family tend to be healthier than leaders who sacrifice solid family relationship for work. Research has shown that people who are good at building relationships that they maintain and develop are healthier than those who do not build relationships. Leaders with solid family networks also tend to eat more healthy foods than leaders who live alone. The nutritarian Joel Fuhrman does argue that we do need to improve our eating habits to make our selves healthier. Second, leaders Know the importance of exercise and tend to follow an exercise regimen. They find that exercise improves mood, makes them more positive, and keeps their physical selves in shape. John Gardner often argued for the importance of reflection as a renewal process. Gardner, Sharma, and other writers also discuss how successful leaders often meditate to reduce stress. Third, leaders are team players and stress collaboration as a positive force for change and a way to make life more meaningful. Collaboration tends to improve the mental health of the participants. Third, leaders are often also believers in social justice and share themselves with those in need. Service to others results in good feelings, positivity, and helping others improve their health and quality of life.

Personal leadership development has the unanticipated consequence of improved health.


October 26, 2014

If there is one thing that we leaders and we trainers in leadership have learned, it is that there is more than one way to be an effective leader. Context is not a static thing. Change is an ever evolving process. Context is about goals, the past, the present, and the future, cultural models, values, policy, politics, economics demographics, and so on. Leaders operate and practice within this environment. No theory fits all contexts. All theories also have some flaws. Leadership is partly innate, partly learned in schools and workshops, partly experiential, mostly affected by those with whom we interact, and also affected by others outside our immediate context. Organizations and communities change. Thus, leadership style and skill stretching is needed to adapt with these changing times.

Leaders are often influenced b the latest fad in leadership theory and methods. As lifelong learners, leaders need to learn from these new approaches. However, the learning involves integration of the new approaches with the other lessons of our lifetime. For example, adaptive leadership models provide some important insights into being a leader today. Experience based leadership models offer many additional approaches to learning that we need to integrate with adaptive leadership models and other models. Thinking from a systems or complexity approach is different from thinking in a linear way. The different thinking models mean we may also differ in the way we incorporate these new models into our leadership practice.

Flexibility and resilience are important. Leaders need to be open to new tools and perspectives. Personal leadership development is an evolving process. As a leader, we need to grow. No one approach to leadership will work in the long run. Each leader brings different skills to an organization or community. Leader A will do the job one way and Leader B may do it in an entirely different way. The way Leader A did the job in Agency1 is not the way the job needs to be done in Agency 2. One size does not fit all.


August 31, 2014

Members of Boards of health are expected to be leaders who represent the communities from which they are selected. However, this has not always been the case. Board members are often friends of elected city, county or state officials. Many are retired and can serve at most times. They often define themselves as volunteers rather than trustees of their home communities. Many members have little background in health or even know what local or state health really do. Statutes often require physician and dental members who also do not always understand what public health is all about. Most board presidents or chairs try to give some orientation to new members. With this being said, boards often improve performance if they have a annual to better define their roles and responsibilities. These manuals when they exist tend to be in loose leaf notebooks which allows for new material to be added to the manual as needed. Some experimentation is being given to putting the manuals online. My experience has been that hard copies tend to work better in these groups although background information can clearly be put online.

In 1995-96, a leadership team which included a Board of health member of her team to develop an orientation manual for Board of health members in Illinois. This team was one of the Fellowship teams of the Mid-America Regional Public Health Leadership Institute. Members included Phyllis Reeder, Laura McGee-Otunde, Steve Ochoa, Judith Schlieper, and Mark Schmidt. The manual was developed for use throughout the network The Illinois Association of Boards of Health. Schmidt was able to get the Illinois Department of Public Health to publish the first edition with a copy of the manual for all Boards in the State. The manual is still in use and is updated on a regular basis. Other states have modified the manual for use in their states

The manual should include the following required sections:

    1 .What is Public Health?

    2. Core Functions and Essential Services

    3. Legal Authority/Powers and Duties

    4. By-Laws

    5. Open meetings Act(if applicable)

    6. Board member profiles

    7. Information on Recruitment of Health department Administrators

    8. Functions of Boards and board members

    9. Local board Information

    10.Overview to parliamentary procedure

    11. Statutes and Regulation

    12. Organization Charts including the state health entity

Supplementary Sections can be included at the discretion of the Board and Administrators, eg discussion of health reform, partnership agreements, and other issues. As you can see, the manual offers much to the Board member and his/her leadership responsibilities.


July 31, 2014

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, an increasing acceptance of the importance of both prevention and preparedness, knowing that knowledge management is a good thing, a stress on informatics development, improving access to health care, an awareness of the need to bring together the multifaceted nature and parts of health and health care, the idea of creating a national cultural orientation to health becomes important. It is not that we need to collapse all the health professions into one universal category, but rather we need to make collaboration and partnership our modus operandi. With an awareness that a move to health and a culture of health is also multifaceted, the social determinants of health was a beginning to our understanding of the values associated with health.. A culture of health model is a political, economic, social, personal, family, community, and political set of decisions. Our challenge is that it is not easy to change culture.

Although leadership with a title is an important dimension, the creation or development of a health mindset for all Americans is the end goal. All must take a leadership stance if a true culture of health is to come into being. Each of us must take responsibility for the change since each of us has to personally change our health habits. It is of course critical that our health professionals become more expert in the practice of leadership. Leadership development on the ground will be important. The use of social media will need to increase but in the end relationships and relationship-building will be the secret weapons for bringing a new age of health into being.

To change mental models oriented toward treatment and rehabilitation to a culture of health model with a prevention orientation, public health leaders will need to be proficient in the skills of systems thinking, communication skills, knowledge of the sociological process of cultural systems design(understandingof how mental models can be changed), psychological processes related to behavior change, policy development and advocacy, models of collaboration, informatics, and organization management.


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