What no one tells you about leadership

Teammates and fellow academy participants, Rebecca Garza, Joseph Lightner, and Crystal Everett bond over coffee after completing a spaghetti tower exercise during an academy workshop.

Who honestly cares about leadership?

I don’t think I have ever heard someone say, “Omg! I can’t wait until the next leadership seminar that I have to attend!” I work in the public health industry, and even I, someone who has dedicated my career to improving the health of our residents, never saw the true value of leadership, never actively pursued leadership as a means to accomplish public health improvements. That was, until I applied for Health Forward’s Healthy Communities Leadership Academy on the strong urging of a good friend and coworker of mine. On a whim, I dove into the leadership abyss.

After participating in the Academy I am converted, I am a leadership enthusiast and you should be too. Let me explain why.

As a once self-described, just-get-it-done, publish-or-perish, what-is-taking-so-long academic who thought that leadership was an alternative degree in college for people who didn’t want to do statistics, I didn’t invest time in understanding the “zone of productivity” or “working across factions.”

I had the attitude that if someone didn’t want to work with me, I would work alone and stand on the merit of my ideas and work ethic. This attitude is not unique to me; it is prevalent in many industries, which is usually dominated by the Type-A, white male, my-doctorate-is-better-than-yours career professional. Yet, the research consistently shows that this attitude works against our goals.

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 Why you should apply (from a leadership convert)

  • Learn leadership skills from the experts
  • Expand you network of friends fluent in the language of leadership
  • To learn more about yourself and your default behaviors
  • Work on changing policy using a different framework than you have in the past
  • Gain support from your fellow cohort of leadership geeks
  • Get outside of your viewpoint with fun exercises that will push you mentally and emotionally
  • To effectively work with other organizations that you have not traditionally worked with in the past
  • To improve health outcomes for our residents

The power needed to improve health doesn’t come from individuals alone, but from changing the system in which we live.

Our old modes of operation, the system which we uphold, simply hasn’t worked. Life expectancy hasn’t improved much in the last 50 years. In some places (our most marginalized communities) people are actually dying younger than their predecessors.

Innovation is critical to moving from the status-quo to a more progressive, informed health system. Yet, working together in an innovative space requires a new set of skills. These skills weren’t taught in my MPH or PhD programs and I’m guessing they weren’t taught in your college experience or job training either. They are the skills often overlooked in performance reviews and by funding agencies. Learning to change systems is tough and often thankless. However, the Healthy Communities Leadership Academy provides an environment where individuals learn the skills required to do this messy and productive work.

To change the system of health in KC, it will take all of us. Safety-net providers, private hospitals, public health departments, planners, and engineers will all be called to lead. If we’re going to improve life expectancy and reduce mortality and morbidity, we have to find a way to work together collectively, and that means understanding the true tenants of leadership.

Our skills individually are strong but have been shown to be insufficient in making meaningful strides toward improving the lives of residents in Kansas City. A physician can only treat one individual at a time. A statistician can only create so many reports in a day. This year is the time to push yourself and your organization to think more upstream. Now is the time to think about changing policies and structures of your organization or to engage with others to change policy for the cities or states that we live in.

Where do you start? By applying to take part in the Academy.

This is your opportunity to learn, be innovative, and lead. Join us in honing your leadership potential and fighting for health.


Apply now

Health Forward Foundation
2300 Main Street, Suite 304
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 241-7006