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Mighty Seven Leadership 

By Magda G. Peck, ScD
Founder and Senior Advisor, CityMatCH
Director, Great Plains Public Health Leadership Institute
Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center

If you are within the ‘sound’ of my words, hear me clearly: your obligation to lead well is non-negotiable. “Leadership” may not be in your job title or you may not feel very potent in the course of your daily grind inside bureaucratic, hierarchical organizations, or in highly politicized times. But you don’t get to opt-out. Not never. Not now.  

Leadership is not anointed. It is an art and craft to be practiced with intention over time. So the question is: how shall we lead, together? Seven kinds of leaders must unite to fulfill the enduring social contract that is bedrock to the MCH field:  

1)      Values-Driven Leaders, grounded in equity and fairness, whose practice is anchored in our core public health philosophy: social justice.  

2)      Ethical Leaders, who set the highest ethical standards for themselves and for others, and who hold themselves and others accountable for both means and ends. 

3)      Servant Leaders, whose service embodies an array of core characteristics: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to human growth and building community. 

4)      Collaborative Leaders, who create and sustain mutually beneficial, well-defined relationships among individuals and organizations to achieve results that would not have occurred as well or at all if they had not worked well together. 

5)      Systems Leaders, who see so much more than the sum of parts; who skillfully combine creativity to generate ideas, analytic intelligence to evaluate them, practical intelligence to implement ideas and persuade others of their worth; who wisdom helps harness the power of diverse interests and aligns all contributions for the greatest good. 

6)      Transformational Leaders, who transcend the routine reciprocity of giving and getting, who embrace a common mission, set a clear shared vision, and execute with mastery the process of complex change for the greater good…over the long run. 

7)      Ecological Leaders, who expect, invite, promote and sustain a culture and infrastructure of learning in their public health organizations; and who are committed to the ongoing development and synthesis of leadership skills and competencies throughout their careers, in response to an ever changing environment.  

MCH is the urgent perfect part of public health to model and manifest “Mighty Seven Leadership” in intentional, strategic ways. MCH practitioners and the institutions through which we serve are stewards of the public’s health, grounded in social justice, ethical in the conduct of our work, and accountable for what happens as a result. We must be systems thinkers, navigators of complexity, masters of collaboration, architects of transformation, and advocates for sustainable change.  

I call upon each of us to dedicate time for leadership development, to renew ourselves and grow others at the beginning, middle and slow sunsets of our careers. Make a plan. Find learning partners. Build skills. Read and reflect.  

And please, no whining. If you think you are too busy to learn, you are too busy to lead well. Women and children, fathers and families everywhere are counting on you and me to do the best for them. If we truly invested in our own best MCH leadership, imagine how together we could be an unstoppable mighty force for change.