“Do I have the characteristics of a good leader?” Sarah Matthews, MPH, asks herself. As the epidemiology program manager at Orange County Health Department and a participant in the FPHTC Online Mentor Program, she recently took the online course The Art and Science of Ethical and Effective Public Health Leadership from USF’s Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice (CLPHP). “What areas are mine to improve and on what do I have direct influence?” she reflects.
These are all great questions- and ones that may not always have simple answers. But learning the basic concepts of public health leadership and professional ethics can certainly pave part of one’s path to success.
“I learned that the organizational climate is directly influenced by the leader’s leadership and management style,” says Matthews. “I also gained the knowledge that the behavior and character of a leader are the most important factors that impact your organization’s ethical climate.”
Course facilitator, and public health leader himself, Dr. Adewale Troutman stresses that leaders can often influence culture, but they cannot easily change or create new culture that is not already part of an organization. “I found this concept profound because it gave permission to not consider it a failure in leadership if you do not succeed in changing the culture but know that you may have succeeded in influencing it,” says Matthews.
In the course, Dr. Troutman defines “vision” very simply: “you must be able to see a thing before you can have a thing.” Makes sense, right? A leader must outline and communicate his vision before he can influence change.
Some might think certain people are born leaders. But that’s not always true. One can learn leadership skills and develop their skills through self-study education, training, and experience, according to Dr. Troutman. “This course is a worthwhile step in the area of self-study education and training,” says Matthews. “Dr. Troutman simplifies the primary functions of a leader and reiterates the basics in leadership, making this course a great introduction to your leadership development.”