Sept. 11 , 2006
New initiative takes a hard look at leadership
BY paige parvin
A good leader is like irony: it’s hard to describe, but we know it when we see it.
What are the qualities that constitute a good leader? Decisiveness? Authority? Compassion? Diplomacy? Leadership is a critical but elusive concept that’s being explored in earnest across the University these days, from departmental weekend workshops to intense yearlong courses. And a recent Universitywide initiative will raise leadership even higher in the community consciousness: the Excellence Through Leadership program.
Piloted last year in the Division of Finance and Administration, the program is modeled after Health Sciences’ Woodruff Leadership Academy (WLA). More than 100 fellows have participated in the WLA since it was launched in 2003, and the fellows say it has infused the ranks of Health Sciences leadership with new confidence and a wider perspective.
“Participating in the WLA brought new meaning and purpose to my role at Emory,” said Roseanne Waters, program director for Health Policy and Management in the Rollins School of Public Health and a 2003 WLA fellow. “It helped me understand how the work I do contributes not only to my department and school, but to achieving Emory’s vision.”
Fellows found the program not only enhanced their skills, but enriched their knowledge of themselves, each
other, and the workings of the complex Health Sciences enterprise.
“The various evaluations I was subjected to were incredibly informative and helped me develop a strategy for professional development,” said Gary Miller, associate professor of environmental and occupational health at Rollins and a member of the 2005 class. “I think most faculty and staff tend to lead reactive professional lives.
That is to say, we deal with problems as they come along, and don’t ever think about how we can improve ourselves or our situations to better prepare us for future challenges. By spending our time improving our leadership skills, we can head off challenges before they become problems.”
The self-examination component was particularly useful to Leon Haley, deputy senior vice president for medical affairs at Grady Medical Center.
“One of the great benefits was a complete 360 review of yourself with accompanying material for you to learn about yourself, your personality, how others view you, and opportunities for improvement,” Haley said. “I still keep some of the documents posted so I can refer to them from time to time.”
Networking also was a key benefit, added Richard Gitomer, chief of clinical services for the Emory Clinic. “The networking opportunities with members of other entities across the WHSC was valuable and had a significant impact on my career direction,” he said. “It opened collaboration with the School of Nursing and the School of Public Health that I would never have pursued.”
The success of the WLA prompted the start of a smaller-scale but similar effort, the Pediatric Executive Program (PEP), developed specifically for leaders in the Pediatrics Department.
“The value [of PEP] is that we are able to extend the education, understanding and appreciation for the big-picture Woodruff Health Sciences Center vision to a departmental level,” said Gary Teal, senior associate vice president for administration in the Health Sciences Center. “Then they take this vision and apply it at the departmental level.”
Like the WLA, the new Excellence Through Leadership (ETL) program is targeted to director-level and above managers of the University who are considered to be on a path to positions of leadership. The goals of the program are to strengthen leadership performance across the University and to establish a leadership pipeline for succession planning. Creators of ETL identified 32 key competencies that will serve as a foundation for leadership at Emory, which include such varied skills as conflict management, creativity, listening and work-life balance.
Twenty employees from a cross-section of departments have been chosen for the ETL inaugural class (nominees must be sponsored by a senior administrator). President Jim Wagner kicked off ETL last month with a special meeting, and the group will meet monthly from September through March in rigorous two- and three-day sessions focused on a range of topics, from a broad look at administrative strategy to a crash course in financial statements. Much of the curriculum is from Goizueta Business School’s executive graduate program.
As with the Woodruff program, much of the content is hands-on and the idea is to achieve tangible results. Participants in ETL are required to mount significant projects during the latter part of the course, with a presentation and celebratory graduation at the close of the program.
“The team projects are critical for inducing the tight relationships within the teams,” Gitomer said. “A team’s makeup can be a major driver of success. Having people from diverse areas of the WHSHC as well as people with diverse qualities, was a powerful learning experience.”