Wednesday, February 17, 2010

reflecting on leadership skills... is making my head spin!

So the prompt of the week is as follows: "What do you think are the key skills leaders in public health need in order to be successful, and why? What skills are you most interested in developing over the course of the fellows program?"

I have to admit, maybe it's the fact that I have been staring at spreadsheets and data all day, but this question immediately made my brow furrow. What specific skills, out of all the leadership 'competencies' to choose from, do I think are the MOST relevant to my future career? Aren't they all important? I think this 'fog of confusion' may also stem from my confusion about what types of jobs I want to have, in what types of institutions... if I can't figure that out, how can I figure out what skills I will need?

Okay, enough of my bourgeoisie suffering. Leadership skills are inherently transferrable, so for me the question becomes: What leadership skills am I good at? Where do I need some improvement, and where am I lousy? Is it better to be pretty good at all the 'leadership competencies', or excellent at a few? What is my leadership 'style'?

For reference, here are the leadership competencies given to us, at the start of the program:
  • communication
  • initiative
  • interpersonal skills
  • meeting facilitation
  • organizational awareness
  • professional integrity
  • project management
  • relationship-building
  • self-confidence
  • self-development & awareness
  • strategic thinking & problem-solving
  • team work

Luckily, I have leadership experiences to draw from when pondering these questions - both examples of when I rose to the occasion, and times when I flopped spectacularly. The times when I excelled were invigorating, especially when I felt like I was part of a well-functioning team, with shared values and similar work styles. The best teams I have been a part of were empowering, and all of us felt like leaders even if we had one "team leader".

But the flops were perhaps much more instructive for me -- I think what I have really learned from the more tense work experiences I have had is that I do not handle conflict very well! I definitely have a high standard for values and professional integrity, so when these are somehow lacking, I have trouble functioning. In that respect, I think that problem-solving and interpersonal skills will be really important for me to develop, especially as I am moving into a new and unfamiliar field. Relationship-building is another... I definitely prefer getting to know people one-on-one and in small groups, so "networking" events just tire me out.

On that note, back to data!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Center for Digital Storytelling... they are awesome!

A few weeks into the CHL Fellows program, I'm feeling grateful for all the new experiences we are already having, in addition to those yet to come.

Last week we had a workshop with the Center for Digital Storytelling, and it was a surprising and powerful experience, Their devoted and charismatic staff compressed what could have taken days into a 10-hour, intensive primer on the process of video storytelling. Our task was to create a video using no more than 250 words and 15 images, which explained why we want to be leaders in the field of public health. We spent a few hours writing and honing our narratives, and then got a fast lesson in video and sound editing to polish it all off. The day just flew by, and when we finally had our debut party at 5 pm it was really amazing to see all the stories come together!

It definitely felt empowering to learn how to craft a message using media I wasn't familiar with. Although I gained a lot from the process of trying to distill my goals in this compelling format, my favorite part of the workshop was learning about the breadth of life experiences amongst our cohort of 12. The stories ran the gamut, and made me appreciate how diverse our goals, talents, and perspectives are. (Well, maybe as diverse as perspectives can be within the liberal bubble of Berkeley.)

I know I definitely struggled to say something meaningful within the 250 word limit, and though I think I could have gone a number of directions with my narrative, I ultimately decided to pay tribute people and places that have inspired me in the last few years. Without much further ado, here it is!