MY PHILOSOPHY OF LEADERSHIP
According to Burns (2012), a philosophy of leadership is a working document which continues to grow and change as new skills, knowledge and experience is gained. This is certainly true as I reflect on how my idea of what constitutes leadership has metamorphosed through the years. In 1991, writing on the leadership role of the Clinical Nurse Specialist, I stated that “… leaders in nursing … are able to envision future goals for nursing, clients, the organizations in which they work, as well as for whole communities and the world at large” (Turner, 1991). At the age of 31 years, and just venturing upon my advanced practice role, I believe this was a good start. Since that time, of course, I have learned and continue to learn, that this is just that; a start; with much more to build onto.
Leadership requires much more than having a vision or goals. Once must be able to effectively communicate and share that vision with others, so that they too, may see the dream. Inspirational speaker and author, Stephen Covey, advises, “start with the end in mind”. As leaders, we must be able to envision what the unit, organization, community, health setting, world, will look like at the end of the project. But that also, is not enough. “Vision only becomes powerful if shared with others” (Shanta and Kolanek, 2008). An effective leader must be able to communicate the vision to those who are expected to take action and implement the vision (Shanta and Kolanek, 2008). In order to do this, a leader must have not only intellectual ability, but also emotional competence; something we, the DNP cohort, have been reading and studying about recently in our Leadership course.
An important component of emotional intelligence is relationship management: how we relate to subordinates, peers, and colleagues. A leader must be able not only to speak effectively to relate their vision to others, but also to listen. Some of the best outcomes of any project or incentive I have experienced is a result of “brainstorming” and listening to various ideas of the team. Not only does this spur energy and motivation, but also ownership and energy to accomplish the goal.
In developing a philosophy of leadership, Burns (2012), suggests we begin by defining the top three work-related values that motivate us to achieve outcomes for organizational success. I thought about what these three values are for me. This also comes not long after participating in the vision and mission meeting with the Dean, Senior Faculty, Assistant Professors and Staff regarding the direction of Emory University. Many values were discussed, to include those the Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing presently embraces: Social justice, excellence. Are these just words, or are there associated behaviors?
According to Burns (2012), “a philosophy gives leaders an opportunity to learn more about what they truly stand for, how their values support their beliefs, and what actions need to be taken to turn those beliefs into reality. The first step in formulating a philosophy of leadership, Burns continues, is therefore to identify one’s own three work-related values. I have thought long and hard about this very question, and combined with my results from having taken the Strengths-Based Leadership Inventory (2007), I have come to identify mine: 1) To treat others as myself, 2) A strong work ethic to include continued learning to improve outcomes and the world at large, and 3) Teamwork. Treating others as I would wish to be treated incorporates the values of honor, respect, and integrity. This is congruent with my Strengths-Based Leadership Results (2007), which indicate that I “consider people more important than things” and that “the value [I] place on humankind guides my decision-making. In having a strong work ethic, I challenge myself and others to achieve and continually grow. In doing so, I engage others to talk about ideas, concepts, theories; come up with questions and seek to answer them; and challenge our current way of thinking about things. My work inspires me and in so doing, I hope to inspire others as well. Through collaboration, I believe that together we can accomplish more than any one of us can alone. We are more than the sum of our parts. Together, we can change our world and leave it better than the way it was inherited. It is easy to see how these essential values are woven into my philosophy of leadership: Humanity, Integrity, Challenge, Inspire, Collaboration. In the words of Max Depree (in Burns, 2012), “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality; the last is to say ‘Thank You’. In between the two, the leader must become a servant.”
Burns, J. (2012). Defining reality: The importance of articulating a leadership philosophy. OT Practice, 17(20), 19-20.
Covey, S. (1989). The 7 Daily Habits of Highly Effective People. Free Press: Detroit, MI
Shanta, L. L., & Kalanek, C. B. (2008). Perspectives on nursing leadership in regulation. JONA’s Healthcare Law, Ethics & Regulation, 10(4), 106-111.
Spurr, S., Bally, J., & Ferguson, L. (2010). A framework for clinical teaching: A passion-centered philosophy. Nurse Education in Practice, 10(6), 349-354. doi:10.1016/j.nepr.2010.05.002