Provost Perspective: Leadership development

The value of good leadership is something that can’t be overemphasized, and we’ve always recognized the importance of building leadership capacity across our vast and varied institution. Not only does it make our organization better equipped to meet the challenges of the ever-changing academic and health care landscapes, but it empowers our employees with skills that help their professional growth.

Focusing on leadership is the proverbial win-win situation, and the creation of the Office of Leadership Development and its extensive programing has helped concentrate our efforts.

Previous leadership programs, though effective, were more ad-hoc and not as coordinated as we needed them to be, and results from our employee engagement surveys articulated a strong desire across the institution for enhanced collaboration as well as improved communication. So last December, Dr. Caryl Hess, a leadership professional who oversaw the leadership and management curriculum for physicians, nurses and administrators as director of the Cleveland Clinic Academy, assumed the role as director of the Office of Leadership Development and began the challenging job of focusing leadership activities into a more centralized structure.

While we continue to encourage our people to seek out leadership opportunities from outside the organization – there is undeniable value in exposing yourself to other people and other ways of doing things – we feel it is important to build an internal culture of accountable, authentic leadership. Getting everyone speaking the same language, so to speak, creates definite advantages, and though we certainly don’t do that in a vacuum – Caryl’s contacts have allowed her to bring in some dynamic and educational speakers – we do appreciate the value of a unified leadership program.

One of the focuses, something we feel is critical to our success, is enhancing the development of our department chairs and unit leaders, who must possess a host of leadership skills, including the ability to communicate effectively in all directions – with upper administration as well as with faculty, staff and peers.

We recognize the specific challenges of these positions and are working very intentionally to offer them tools to increase their ability to operate effectively.

The different leadership pipeline programs within the Leadership Academy bring together participants from across the entire institution, including faculty, staff and health care practitioners. And while these broad cohorts are learning valuable leadership skills, another pretty wonderful thing happens – personal relationships are being forged that strengthen our community and increase the participants’ understanding of their peers.

This kind of focus on developing leadership is relatively new to many institutions, but we feel it’s critical to our growth as an organization. And though our current efforts are fairly recent, Caryl and her team have already begun receiving positive feedback. Even more than that, we’re getting true buy-in. Some of these programs require extra effort and time outside of work, and the participants’ willingness to stay into the evening and to give up portions of their weekend to concentrate on developing these kinds of skills speaks volumes about the kind of people we have here and the value they feel they’re getting from the experience.

Ultimately, leadership is not a function of your org chart position. It’s about your capacity to effect change and positively influence the people around you, and we want to provide as many opportunities as possible to allow our institutional community to grow and strengthen themselves as well as the organization. So please visit the Office of Leadership Development and find out what opportunities might be appropriate for you.

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