Leadership can be cultivated through the intentional actions of managers and others in public health organizations. This article provides a rationale for taking innovative and proactive steps to build leadership, discusses four general strategies for doing so, and presents seven practical, creative, and affordable actions that can have a positive influence on efforts to cultivate leadership qualities in the public health workforce. Each action is illustrated with an actual contemporary example from a local public health agency. The actions include providing formal or informal coaching/mentoring opportunities; assigning staff to lead new projects or collaborations, projects outside their disciplines, projects that cause growth in their information technology capacity, or orphan or struggling projects; facilitating a book club; and institutionalizing reflection. The best way to ensure that effective leadership is available when the organization needs it is to intentionally develop it through an ongoing process. Leadership growth can be supported during the ordinary course of business in a public health organization through thoughtful challenges, sharing ideas and experiences, and especially through the example set by managers and those in positions of authority.
This study provides a rationale for taking innovative and proactive steps to build leadership qualities in the public health workforce.
Joyce R. Gaufin, BS, is Executive Director, Great Basin Public Health Leadership Institute, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Kathy I. Kennedy, DrPH, MA, is Director, Regional Institute for Health and Environmental Leadership, University of Denver, and Associate Clinical Professor, Community and Behavioral Health, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado, Denver.
Ellen D. Struthers, BA, is Writer and Editor, Regional Institute for Health and Environmental Leadership, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado.
Corresponding Author: Joyce R. Gaufin, BS, Great Basin Public Health Leadership Institute, 646 N Pinion Hills Dr, Dammeron Valley, UT 84783 (Jgaufin@healthinsight.org).
The authors claim no conflict of interest regarding the production of this article.
The authors thank the public health practitioners, named within, who generously provided their time and inspiration when sharing their leadership stories. Partial support was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grants 5U14WC000113-02 and 5U14WC000111-02.