By Michael R. Fraser, PhD, CAE
Leadership development is a critical issue for AMCHP. Why? Because the work of MCH involves the crux of leadership: setting a vision and motivating others to work toward that vision with shared purpose. State MCH leaders set a vision for maternal and child health in their states and lead others toward meeting that vision – protecting and promoting the health of women, children and families. As such, the core definition of MCH leadership is "inspiring and bringing people together to achieve sustainable results to improve the lives of MCH populations." (MCH Leadership Competencies Version 3.0)
Leadership development is a passion of mine, one that I share with many of our staff and members. As a national organization, we aim to provide leadership on issues affecting women, children and families. As a membership organization, we seek to develop the leadership potential of our members so that they are better able to perform their work and improve MCH outcomes in their states and territories. Leadership for maternal and child health at the state level is critical because so much accountability and responsibility for protecting and promoting health rests within state government, bringing others together to set and share a vision for maternal and child health statewide. State MCH programs are unique in that way – while many partners contribute to your state MCH outcomes, no other entity has both the accountability and responsibility for ensuring that the needs of women, children and families in your state are met but you.
While there are many technical challenges that impact MCH in the states (what interventions to use, how to evaluate a program), I think that leadership challenges are even more critical to ensuring good MCH outcomes (what is our vision, do we all share that vision and know how to get there together). We have all worked in organizations where good leadership is lacking – you feel like you are on a rudderless ship moving from one direction to another with no shared sense of purpose or goal. Successful MCH programs share a common trait: they have good MCH leaders. That is why AMCHP and its partners focus on leadership development in many different ways.
One effective leadership development strategy we have developed here at AMCHP is mentoring. Our Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) supported New Director Mentor Program pairs a seasoned MCH leader with a new or emerging MCH leader at the state level (described in this issue of Pulse on page 4). Through a series of structured modules and trainings, participants in the program share and learn what it means to lead state MCH programs, equipping new leaders for success. The program has been extremely well received and highly evaluated thanks to the staff who continue to refine the program and the members who participate as both mentees and mentors.
As you confront the challenges of leadership in your state, AMCHP stands ready to support you. This issue of Pulse describes some of the leadership lessons many have learned as they have worked to improve the health of mothers, children, and families in their states and territories. I hope you will seize the opportunity to develop yourself as a leader and see leadership development as a lifelong process of learning, improving and sharing. We are anxious to hear what leadership strategies would be helpful to you and how AMCHP and its partners can provide meaningful ways for you to develop your leadership style. As always, we look forward to learning from and with you!