Report date
January 2021
Learning Log

As a new Bush Fellow, initially expect to feel a bit overwhelmed that first you were chosen for this prestigious opportunity and now are expected to execute those aspirational goals which you set forth in your correspondence. I have found that this journey so far is challenging yet rewarding. I have learned along this journey that I enjoy providing opportunities for employees to engage with various community groups. Street fairs, Veterans and Memorial Day parades, Lions, Kiwanis, Farmers Market, Scouts, mental health advocacy organization meetings all provide for employee and community interaction opportunities. By engaging the community in helping to develop cultural competency within the agency and involving the community in agency decisions that affect them, my impact as an inclusive leader has continued to grow. To sustain my leadership, I applied and was accepted into the Harvard Kennedy Public Leadership course Senior Executives in State and Local Government along with the Strategies for Building and Leading Diverse Organizations course. These programs will assist me in building in role of diversity by creating strategies that both improve organizational effectiveness and relationships with diverse populations.
As a new fellow expect a lot of emphasis on building your leadership and your leadership style. My work on leadership building has focused heavily on collaboration opportunities with other entities who serve the community. By working together with Range Mental Health, we have applied and successfully passed the first round of a 100K grant process which if funded would allow us to deliver much needed mental health care to underserved populations. The importance of allies and working with other people who share a common goal was made very clear in this process. Leadership is not about being in charge, rather it is about supporting a mission or concept with your resources to assist the most strategically placed ally or agency in achieving success, whether that be funding, service delivery or both. I read the book "Primal Leadership" published by Harvard Business Review Press and the importance of emotionally intelligent leadership is clearly demonstrated. Leadership in today's economically volatile and technologically complex world requires people who are self-aware, empathic, and excel at creating the conditions for motivated co-workers. The importance of close-looped communication was once again highlighted during the EMS Communications class I taught last year. There is a phrase about communication which I believe is very accurate as it states that, "The single biggest failure in communication is the belief that it has occurred."
I have learned during these few months that leadership requires constant engagement and clear, affirmative communication. Once the overall concept of a project has been agreed too, effective leadership requires that the most qualified individual be assigned to their matching strengths. Effective leaders are humble enough to realize that they may not be the best suited individual to lead or be the point person on a particular project. If the overall success of the project is truly more important to a leader then control of the details or being in charge, they will not have an issue in assuming a supportive role. The impact that one can have in their community is really limited by time, resources, and ingenuity. One must make a purposeful effort to set aside the time to dedicate to improvement in their community. It also takes time to seek out and acquire resources, which for me can be one of the most challenging aspects of the needed components. One thing I have learned is that the ingenuity which is necessary in the equation of problem solving in the community is best accessed through others with unique experiences and specialized skills sets which are frequently different than mine. Through each of these interactions in which the skills of others are highlighted it demonstrates the importance of collaborative working relationships and the importance of building leadership opportunities for others.
As a new fellow I would offer this advice regarding leadership. I have learned that true leadership is both flexible and situationally adaptable. Leadership is building capacity in others, and in so doing you are building it in yourself as a coach and a mentor by providing the opportunity for growth. I have been impressed by the level of dedication and resourcefulness which I have seen demonstrated by others in my work environment. In one instance a solution was discovered and enacted which would not have even been considered if I were the only person attempting to solve this dilemma. Once again, the value of a relationship with the right person in another health care organization, not necessarily the highest-ranking person, was demonstrated. While there is a time for command-and-control leadership, such as is common at an emergency scene, there is a much more nuanced approach which must be taken when buildings are not on fire. Everyone responds differently when corrective action is needed and sometimes the most difficult part of leadership is not formulating what needs to be done, but how best to design an approach that will bring about the desired result. When a thoughtful, methodical, firm, yet compassionate approach is used it brings about the best possibility for a successful resolution. The view of my impact as a leader has stretched outside the traditional fire and EMS world, and I am now engaged in a Waste-To-Energy proposal for a developing country with a significant waste issue, where I am fortunate to have colleagues. The opportunity to connect people in a way which brings together the funding and resources which results in both a community and global benefit is very rewarding. Practices which will sustain my leadership include building trust with new contacts by following through on projects and proposals as well as showing an interest in them personally, rather than just professionally. Consistency and dependability are two practices which I value highly in anyone I deal with, so it is important to hold myself to that same standard. Practices I use to sustain my leadership consist of routine evaluations of how I spend my time and energy. Those things which add little to no value will be dropped and I will continue to focus on those activities and organizational commitments which bring the greatest return on investment for others and myself. I have significantly reduced the amount of time I spend on both social media platforms and in reading or watching news programs. I have found that neither of these time-consuming activities were contributing much of value to my leadership experience, especially given the current political climate. I have sadly watched as people who were once friends, now no longer communicate with one another because of political differences. There has been a huge sense of relief after taking a step back from the rancor I was witnessing daily from the "blue check mark" crowd and even from some well-meaning friends.
One of the best parts of the Bush Fellowship I believe is that you get to meet people you might not have otherwise met. Connections with people and access to resources have assisted me in my leadership journey. I have been very fortunate to "meet" with my coach who is a Professor Emeritus in the College of Health and Human Service at California State University in Long Beach. As an established human resource development consultant in life safety technology and emergency management education, I am honored to learn from him. He in turn has sought a subject matter expert in ways to apply the emotional intelligence principles I am so interested in. I have had the opportunity to work with several fire and EMS personnel both from within and without my department in which coaching, mentoring, and educational direction was sought by others from me. I find it is very rewarding when you can assist another person in their quest for knowledge whether it be a certification, a credential, or a formal educational path. Building capacity in others and watching them grow as they face and overcome obstacles is truly one of the most satisfying feelings. An additional benefit of being a Bush Fellow is the funding which allows you to travel to other countries to meet others whom you can assist. I was able to help deliver a fire engine to the Belize National Fire Service on behalf of the Global Gear Initiative which donates fire and EMS supplies and equipment to developing countries. The value of partner organizations, in this case the U.S. Air Force, which allows us to utilize space available on a C-17, has proven itself once again. I had the privilege of being asked to join another non-profit board which focuses on taking care of its members, all of whom deployed to high threat environments, and often come home only to struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Injuries (PTSI). We had a board meeting in Atlanta, and I was impressed by the level of knowledge, skill, and abilities of each of the other board members who all share a common purpose and desire in taking care of our members. Building leadership in this capacity means listening to everyone and making sure everyone contributes to the decision-making process.
As a new fellow there is so much opportunity before you and I would encourage you to embrace it all. Good luck!