By Nan Streeter, MS, RN
A leader is a person that leads, directs, commands or guides. When I think of a leader, I think of a person with a vision, a person with the ability to share that vision with others and guide them to making the vision a reality. A leader is someone who shares the “glory” for the outcome with those that helped.
As MCH leaders, whether a Title V Director, a MCH or CSHCN Director, family or youth representative leaders, we all have a great deal of responsibility to ensure that those we serve or advocate for — mothers, families, children and youth, including those with special health care needs — have access to needed services. With today’s climate of political uncertainty and financial disaster, the challenge to us as leaders becomes huge. We all know about having to do more with less, but now we face deeper budget cuts, loss of staff or positions.
So, how do we cope with all these challenges? How do we continue to lead when faced with overwhelming odds? We continue doing our best to “make lemonade out of lemons.” Obviously we can’t make as much lemonade as before, but we can still make lemonade.
When you don’t have enough lemonade to go around, you have to make hard and fast decisions, some of which are not ones that are comfortable or popular. Nonetheless, a leader is not always one who makes things comfortable or does what is popular, but rather has the responsibility and the obligation to make those sometimes unpopular hard decisions.
Now more than ever, mothers, children and youth, especially those with special health care needs, and families need us to step up and speak up for those who may not have a voice, or may not be able to speak up. We have to do what we can with what we have. Easy? No, of course not.
As President of AMCHP, I encourage each and every leader to step back and ask yourself: how you are doing as a leader? Can you do more? I ask you to consider demonstrating your leadership for mothers and children by volunteering to play a leadership role with AMCHP. You can do this by speaking up to your Senators, Congressmen and women, to your state leaders, about the important needs of mothers and children in your state, cities and in the nation. While you may not be able to do this as a government staff member, you certainly can as an individual. You also can participate in AMCHP committee work, or better yet, by serving as an AMCHP Board member!
Before next year’s conference, all delegate members of AMCHP will have an opportunity to vote for six Board of Director positions: family representative member, two at-large members, two Regional Directors (Regions IV and VIII) and President-elect of the Board of Directors. Yes, I know that being a Board member entails time, energy and work, but the rewards are so great. Board members have an opportunity to work with peer leaders on national issues, to learn what issues exist in other parts of the country that may be similar to those they face, to dialogue with federal and national leaders on maternal and child health needs, to participate at another leadership level, national, and to work together with other leaders across the country on promoting the importance of meeting the needs of mothers and children.
I urge you to step up and demonstrate your leadership by getting involved in efforts to promote the health (including mental health) and wellness for mothers, children and youth, including those with special health care needs, and families so that your voice can be heard for those who cannot or are not able. We are up to the challenge, aren’t we? Because we ARE leaders!