Prior to becoming a Bush Fellow and during my first year of the fellowship, I would have talked about my leadership in terms of my style (direct) or area of focus (health care). My understanding of my own leadership has changed, however, as I have learned more about leadership and about myself. To be an effective leader, you have to embrace and rely on your unique strengths. Many leadership skills can be learned, of course, but to be a transformative leader you need to play to your strengths as well. My own leadership strengths depend largely on my perspective and values, not just on my skills or knowledge.
As a leader in health care, there are several perspectives and values that I have come to acknowledge and embrace and bring with me to my work. For example, I believe all of our work should have the goal of improving someone’s health. The link to improvement can be distant, but everything we do should help someone, somewhere. I have learned to intentionally state this goal because it can sometimes get lost. Ensuring my work is patient-centered is a way that I can lead.
I also believe that most problems are systemic. Both a perspective and a value that I use to lead. This perspective is not always welcome. It can make things seem more complicated or difficult to address. However, I want to solve problems - to fix things - which means going to the source. Even if I do not always get to solve the systemic issues, continually striving to improve them is the only way they will change. Seeing and addressing the bigger picture is another way that I can lead.
Acknowledging and embracing these and other values have been an important part of my fellowship work. I am still learning more about myself and my leadership, but am learning to be more comfortable and confident in my skills and values as a leader.
Because of this shift in thinking about my own leadership, I have shifted my thinking about how I can be most impactful. I still want to improve access to health care (with the goal, of course, of improving health for all), but I have been working more in public health than in clinical medicine. Although I started working in public health full-time because of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the broad scope of public health appeals to me. As we have learned during the pandemic, these two areas - public health and clinical medicine - rely on one another but don’t always work well together. As a clinician and public health professional, working to bridge these two care systems has become a focus.
In order to sustain my ability to lead, especially while working on the pandemic response, I have made self-care a priority. I try to be kind and compassionate to myself (and others). Self-care allows me to recharge after a difficult day or week and return to my work with my full attention and energy. In the short run it can, at times, feel as if I am not getting enough done. That I could do more if I took less time for self-care and more time for work. I am not always convinced that is true, however, and I am certain that I will accomplish more in the long run if I take care of myself today.
I am looking forward to the last quarter of my fellowship. The time has flown by. I have been a Fellow almost since the start of the pandemic. The two are closely tied in my mind. I am grateful for the opportunity to have the support of the fellowship while navigating the unexpected and unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. Experiencing both, together, has allowed me to grow in ways I had never before considered.