Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Persily is the CEO of Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV.
During my early meetings with our staff, one of the things that consistently came up in our conversations was the need for education opportunities for staff—especially those offered onsite, leadership development for staff, and communication of our goals across the organization. When I asked many staff what they would focus on first if they were me, they said things like “be visible”, “lead by example”, “be a motivator”, and “culture change”. I listened, and last week at the hospital, we kicked off the first in a series of Leadership Lunch and Learn sessions that I will lead at the Highland companies in Charleston.
Open to anyone in our organization, these sessions are designed for us to tackle leadership topics that are of interest to our staff, and to share our strategies for how we might tackle the thorny leadership problems that we experience no matter where we sit in the organizational structure. Education, leadership development, and communication all wrapped up in one!
Our first session, as is fitting, was entitled “What is Leadership?”. During this session, I first talked briefly about my perceptions about leadership. I shared my bias– that I think that everyone in the organization is a leader, and in fact, everyone should be a leader in certain situations. This probably comes from the definition of leadership that resonates most strongly with me; “Leadership is a social process, in which influence is used to maximize the efforts of others towards the achievement of a goal”. Using this definition opens up a whole new world of leadership opportunities—think about it—leadership in this context is not about having the corner office or a title, but rather it’s about using your social skills and your influence to help others meet a goal. In fact, in behavioral health, we do this every day, leading our patients to help them meet their goals.
You can probably think of many other examples where you are a leader in your everyday life, and your work life. Using this definition of leadership allows everyone to be a leader.
Later on in the session, I challenged our group to come up with their own definition of leadership, one that resonates for them. All of us wrote down and then shared the attributes that we think that a leader has. These included being a motivator, role modeling or setting an example, being confident, being present, being willing to “get their hands dirty”, facilitating change and empowerment, being approachable and open minded.
By looking at how our attributes overlapped, we were able to come up with our own definition of leadership; “Leadership is motivating others toward a goal with confidence through being present and setting an example”. WOW! I like this definition even better—and it still means that each and every one of us can lead. I will use this definition as I think about how I lead, and encourage each of you to think of yourselves as leaders as well.
Next week, we will have the same session at our outpatient companies in Charleston. I can’t wait to see what else we can learn about leadership as we all move forward, learning together, and communicating with each other. I hope you will join us on our journey!