Environmental Health Leadership: Where Do We Go From Here?

Author:Oliver, Priscilla

All of us should help leaders to lead. There is a demand for good quality leadership all around us. Leadership affects us all as we are either leading and/or being led. It is the way of life. I submit that there are different kinds of leaders and we tolerate, overlook, or celebrate them. Perhaps you are leaning to be more involved with environmental health leadership to become a leader or a better leader.

I feel compelled to discuss this topic as I begin my presidency. I have studied and taught leadership in graduate school and practiced leadership in social and educational settings, nonprofit organizations, and federal levels of government. It has been a delightfully rewarding long-term adventure. I am a student, professor, and practitioner of leadership.

First, we are taught that there isn't a single way to lead. There are numerous models (e.g., situational leadership), theories, and thoughts on leadership. The literature and quotes are massive and growing. Are leaders born or made? Some would argue they are born. You are born with traits and into some leadership positions. It is genetic and you build on that and leap or creep into it. Most would say that many of our leaders in environmental health are made.

I refer to the following quotes:

"Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile," Vince Lombardi, football player, coach, and executive in the National Football League.

"Leadership is lifting a person's vision to high sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations," Peter Drucker, management consultant, educator, and author.

Hard work is the price that you generally pay to become a leader in a specific area. For environmental health it means you get the education, degrees, training, credentials, and the varied exposure and work experiences to help you stand out in the pack. You mirror the background of other leaders and add more to what others have.

Every profession is engaged in recruiting, educating, training, counseling, developing, motivating, and planning for a better future. We learn best from each other and we also can learn from other professions. Medicine as a profession does a great job in screening, recruiting, training, and developing physicians to take on leadership roles in healthcare. The requirements and paths are well defined. There...

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