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A Leadership Framework for Management in Public Health

I Introduction

Since 1997, public health in Ontario has undergone many changes. Management needs to consider ways to provide leadership and support staff in their changing roles.

Kouzes and Posner believe that leadership is the process of ordinary people engaged in extracting the best from themselves and others. In their 2002 book, The Leadership Challenge, they identified five key practices for leaders:

1. Model the way

2. Inspire a shared vision

3. Challenge the process

4. Enable others to act

5. Encourage the heart

This article describes these practices and suggests concrete steps to help you implement them.

II Practice 1: Model the Way

This practice helps establish consistency and credibility for leaders.

According to Kouzes and Posner, finding one's individual voice and values enables leaders to be consistent about what they do and how they do it. In fact, values "set the parameters for the hundreds of decisions we make every day" (2002, p 48).

Management teams can bring individual values to the group, allowing them to develop a common, core set of values that will guide their work and their leadership within the health unit. These shared values provide management with a common language and help people feel part of the same team, which will increase "the quality and accuracy of communication and the integrity of the decision-making process" (Kouzes & Posner, 2002, p 78). Management should then align their actions with these values.

Here are some steps to help you determine whether your actions align with your values and if you are a good role model for your staff:

* audit your daily routine--do you meet with or seek staff input regularly?

* audit your daily calendar--how do you spend your time demonstrating the shared values?

* audit the agenda for meetings--what issues are first on agendas, items that show leadership or items that don't engage staff?

* audit questions asked--what questions are typically asked and do they facilitate leadership within the organization?

* audit rewards and recognitions--who's being recognized and why?

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III Practice 2: Inspire a Shared Vision

This practice is transformational and creates a sense of belonging during times of change (Kouzes & Posner, 2002).

Management needs to clarify their leadership role within public health before they can inspire a shared vision among their staff. First, they need to believe that leadership *is* part of their role and to become inspirational leaders. Then, they should take the time to envision what leadership could look like within their organization.

To do this, you can

* review the history of your organization, to discover your organization's patterns, themes, strengths and weaknesses (Kouzes & Posner, 2002, p 133); and

* engage in an exercise to identify how you have made or could make a difference as a management team and share your vision for the future.

Management can then show this vision of the future to staff and inspire them to share in it. Talk to staff and understand their hopes and dreams in order to develop common aspirations for the organization. Remember: "leadership is a dialogue, not a monologue" (Kouzes & Posner, 2002, p 143).

Management also needs to work with staff to develop a shared vision of their department that contributes to the overall vision of public health.

To do this, you can

* take the time to reflect on what your passions: What do you feel strongly about? How is this part of your vision for the future? How can you as a leader in public health make a difference?;

* go through a similar process with your staff, to share their vision and develop an overall vision for the department together; and

* develop shared values with your staff that will guide the work being done in the department (because "values set the stage for action" (Kouzes & Posner, 2002, p 318)).

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IV Practice 3: Challenge the Process

This practice encourages management to look for innovative ways to change and improve the organization through training, risk taking and gathering information from diverse sources.

According to Kouzes and Posner, "training is critical to building self-efficacy and to encouraging initiatives." (2002, p 18). Management needs to invest in leadership training in order to create an environment that promotes innovation and freedom to challenge the status quo.

Management must commit to taking risks as leaders by reaching out and leading differently--for example, listening to staff to understand what drives them.

Management also needs to expand their search for information--to actively listen to what is being said and increase their knowledge about trends within pubic health--in order to modernize their approaches and encourage innovation (Kouzes & Posner , 2002, p 191).

To challenge the process in your organization, you can

* identify how work is done and determine what is essential by using management values as a filter--this can lead to a different way of working together;

* make sure that what people are encouraged to spend their time on reflects the shared values for the department; and

* search for leadership training opportunities and attend them yearly for personal growth and development, thus creating an environment that embraces learning as a lifetime journey.

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V Practice 4: Enable Others to Act

Engaging in this practice will help management share power within the organization and create a better environment for innovation and risk taking.

If management fosters collaboration and shares power--through the creation of a trusting environment, a positive structure for collaboration and increased personal interactions--others will be able to act. (Kouzes & Posner, 2002). An environment that results in a sense of personal power and ownership for all involved will strengthen everyone's capacity to lead (Kouzes & Posner, 2002).

You can create this kind of environment:

* Make a conscious effort to create and sustain trust: nurture openness, involvement, personal satisfaction and high levels of commitment to excellence with staff (Kouzes & Posner, 2002).

* Listen: appreciate what staff have to say, demonstrate your respect for their viewpoints and ideas, consider alternative viewpoints and make use of staff's expertise and abilities.

* Think about how you work with colleagues: How much of your time is spent listening to what your staff members have to say on issues? How do you demonstrate that you respect their viewpoint? How do you invite sharing? How do your actions demonstrate that you have considered what was being said?

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VI Practice 5: Encourage the Heart

When management encourages the heart, "organizations develop a reputation for being a great place to work" (Kouzes & Posner, 2002, p 369).

Leaders need to recognize the contributions that individuals make through intrinsic and external rewards and celebrate all successes, even the small ones and even their own. Management should aim to create "an environment in which everyone's contributions are noticed and appreciated" (Kouzes & Posner, 2002, p 316). Management can do this by giving encouragement in the form of feedback: concrete, personal feedback on what that particular staff member has done well. Kouzes and Posner note that "it's positive information that tells us that we're making progress, that we're on the right track, that we're living up to the standards"(2002, p 321).

Here's how you can encourage from the heart:

* Take action to bring forth the best from others: expect the best from yourself and others to create a framework in which potential exists within everyone and everyone contributes to the vision.

* Incorporate personalized recognition by getting to know staff: How can I acknowledge this staff person's contribution? What quality about this person stands out? Given who this person is, what would be a thoughtful way to acknowledge their contribution?

* Build the spirit of community within your department: bring staff together to share successes, reinforce how they are part of the vision and celebrate.

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VII Conclusion

By engaging in these practices and committing to their leadership development, management in public health can demonstrate effective leadership and contribute to the "long-term development of people and institutions so they can adapt, change, prosper and grow" (Kouzes and Posner, 2002, p xxviii).

You may think that engaging in this type of development is time consuming and not as important as meeting mandatory guidelines. But, you need to reflect on what message you are sending out to staff when you choose not to engage in leadership development. Is that the vision that you want to project?

Providing leadership is about discovering what you care about and value, what inspires you in your everyday environment, what encourages you to move forward and how what you "do" has an effect on others. By taking the time to consider how you are a leader, you will discover the qualities about yourself that you want to enhance and identify those that need to be strengthened. Embarking on this journey also allows you to develop skills needed to create an environment to encourage leadership development in the staff around you. Through your actions, you demonstrate a belief in the capacity of others.

VIII References

Kouzes, J. and Posner, B. (2002). The Leadership Challenge. Jossey Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA.