Sept. 11 , 2006
Leading the way
Professor of Psychiatry Nadine Kaslow participated in the Woodruff Leadership Academy.
I was honored to have been selected as a member of the 2004 Woodruff Leadership Academy (WLA) class, the brain child of Michael Johns, executive vice president for health affairs. By crafting such a program, Dr. Johns’ demonstrated elements of leadership that we sought to emulate: innovation, forward thinking, passion, desire to grow leaders to enhance the organization one leads, and a commitment to advancing the career of others.
We had many models to learn from. It was enlightening to hear from Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC) leaders and from President Jim Wagner who shared his career trajectory with us and acknowledged how he continues to have coaches for his leadership endeavors. Hearing the journeys of these leaders enabled me to feel more connected to them as people and strengthened my respect for their accomplishments.
An invaluable element of the WLA was the networking opportunities the program provided. Through interacting with the other fellows in my class, the program mentors, and the speakers from the WHSC and throughout the University, I gained more kinship with people outside my own unit and day-to-day operation. Frequently I have turned to Woodruff fellows (present and past) for collaboration, consultation and guidance. They have opened doors for me and hopefully I have done so for them as well.
A remarkably rewarding component of the program was the interaction with my small team. We developed a model for palliative care for the WHSC. Despite our 6 a.m. meetings to accommodate everyone’s schedules, we had fun together and learned a tremendous amount from each other. We planted seeds for the interdisciplinary and interdepartmental palliative care services that have been developed at Emory Hospital, Crawford Long Hospital, Grady Health System, Wesley Woods Center, and the Atlanta VA Medical Center.
These programs are expanding and to the extent that our efforts contributed to their development and growth, we feel very proud as a team.
Learning more about the WHSC and its vision and mission was another aspect of the WLA that has been useful to me; it has enabled me to better comprehend the system in which I am embedded. This has led me to be more mindful of the ways in which my activities should be aimed toward advancing the WHSC mission.
As I discovered more about WHSC and the ways in which the various components are integrated, I gained a genuine appreciation for the complexity of our system and the power of collaboration across the entire center and beyond. When Dr. Johns recently delivered his engaging presentation, “Vision 2012: Transforming Health and Healing,” it was evident that the activities of the WLA fellows both informed his thinking and were influenced by the ideas that are the backbone of this transformational process.
One of the most positive parts of the fellowship related to personal learning. We all became acquainted with our Birkmans—are we a “red,” “blue,” “yellow” or “green.” This leadership development tool provided information about our usual behavior, underlying needs, stress behaviors, interests and organizational focus. I discovered that I was a green—people oriented, outgoing, focused on feelings, invested in being a communicator, persuasive and drawn toward social service work. As a clinical psychologist, this fits me to a tee and is not surprising.
What fascinated me was that I was the only fellow in my class whose dominant color was green. Fortunately, Gary Teal, senior associate vice president and WLA coordinator, is also a green, so we have formed a special bond. We also all had a 360 degree evaluation, which, in addition to self-evaluation, included ratings from one’s superiors, peers and subordinates. The information is integrated to shed light on one’s areas of relative strength and weakness, how one’s self-ratings compare to the feedback from others, and how positive traits and areas for growth mesh with the institutional values. While there is no question that we found the input received to be informative and meaningful, what was most valuable was devising and implementing an action plan to focus on improving key areas needed for more effective professional functioning and leadership development.
I am grateful to those colleagues and friends who supported me, challenged me and offered me counsel as I worked toward making progress on my action plan. The fellows who took seriously the astute feedback they received and who engaged actively in their action plans have markedly enhanced their professional performance, interpersonal relationships, and sense of personal satisfaction.
I am very pleased that I have been able to give back to the WLA. While a fellow, I helped to secure two very special guests for my class: former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, whose comments on reducing mental health stigma were empowering to those of us invested in advocacy efforts related to health and mental health care; and former Assistant Secretary for Health and Surgeon General Julius Richmond, who served under President Jimmy Carter. Dr. Richmond shared with us his thoughtful conceptualization of policy advocacy for health care, underscoring the necessity of equal access and equity.
Since completing my fellowship, it has been a real treat for me to be invited each year to present on gender differences in leadership style. Meeting the new fellows and listening to their comments and questions makes me realize how many impressive faculty and staff we have in the WHSC, and helps me to continue to be very
optimistic about our future
in advancing health care and healing.