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 Management Minute

Time to Put the 12 Absolutes of Leadership into Practice!

 By Michael R. Fraser, PhD, CAE, Chief Executive Officer, AMCHP

Happy New Year! Or, should I say, Happy New Year?

This New Year definitely promises to be a challenging time for maternal and child health (MCH) programs. The uncertainty surrounding federal funding for the Title V MCH Services Block Grant is just one of our challenges; clearly there are a lot of other challenges and changes going on in our field. What will the future hold for MCH? See my upcoming column in January/February issue of AMCHP Pulse for a more detailed prediction of what’s in store for 2013. But what I can share is this: now more than ever, we have a pressing need for maternal and child health leadership.

What is leadership in MCH? Broadly stated, MCH leaders set a vision for the future and motivate others to rally around that vision to make positive change in the lives of women, children and families. MCH leadership is about vision setting, inspiration and motivation. Vision setting and inspiration can seem hard to accomplish in this climate of cuts, the demoralization of the governmental public health workforce, and the politicization of MCH issues. But we as MCH leaders must share our vision of the future and motivate others to share in that work – if not us, who? If not now, when? Our very future is being challenged by both friends and foes. Take, for example, the recent discussion around the continued need for the Title V MCH Service Block Grant in light of the expansion of publically financed health care in the Affordable Care Act? What’s our vision for state MCH given that many misinterpret our programs as no longer necessary because coverage has been expanded, or are our programs no longer relevant because the work of MCH is mistakenly seen as duplicative of other public health programs? What does it mean to articulate a vision for state MCH and then get those around us to support it given these views of Title V? How can we make the case for continued support for, and expansion of Title V, given these questions about our work? That’s what our New Year brings. That is why MCH leadership is so essential.

Last year, I spent several months writing about Gary Burnison’s book the Twelve Absolutes of Leadership. All twelve absolutes are important – critical – to our work as MCH leaders. I’ll state them here as a review:

Lead
Purpose
Strategy
People
Measure
Empower
Reward
Anticipate
Navigate
Communicate
Listen
Learn

You can revisit my columns online for more detail on each, but of these 12, where do you think we have the most urgent need to focus as a leader? Which of these 12 absolutes are places of strength for you and your colleagues as MCH leaders, and where do you need to improve as MCH leaders? The 12 absolutes comprise a framework for you to assess your leadership. Put them in practice this year and I know that even in these challenging times you will indeed be successful.

As we tackle the challenges and changes that confront us this New Year, consider Burnison’s wisdom and your own leadership assets. Now more than ever you will be called on to establish a vision for MCH programs in your state and community. And you will need these leadership absolutes to move forward. I look forward to listening to your assessment of these absolutes, and your creative and innovative responses to our challenging times. Please share how you are approaching this New Year – we stand ready to support you in your work and share your successes this year, and always!