As mentor in the national Public Health Education Leadership Institute, I get to interact with public health folks from all across the US, and work with them over the course of a year on developing leadership and systems-thinking skills. I feel really privileged to be involved with this project – every year a new great group of people to learn with!
Yesterday, while on a call with some of this year’s participants, in response to a comment I’d made about the year-long case study project each fellow takes on as part of the institute, someone joked, "Oh Hanna, we thought YOU’D have all the answers!"
As I continue on my path in life, I’m more and more sure that’s it’s
less about having the answers, but knowing what questions to ask. I
have my perspectives, but they certainly aren’t the only ones, nor are
they necessarily right for someone else. Rarely is there one
answer to any situation we encounter. There’s always another
perspective to examine, another way of looking at issues. It’s often
the previously unexamined perspective that can lead us to new
Part of what I want for leaders – who I define as anyone wanting to
make a difference, including but not exclusively those in traditional
named leadership roles – is to increase their comfort with not always
having to know, with having the answer. Knowing our style as
leaders – our strengths, our values, our weaknesses – and how our
style informs our beliefs, our actions, and our decisions is an
important aspect of being able to make a difference. But also being
able to separate ourselves – at least temporarily – from an attachment
to our answers will can allow new perspectives in that can ultimately positively impact the decisions we are called on to make.
So, since I’m all about the questions (!) –
What do you know for sure?
What’s an answer you’d like to have?
What’s another way of looking at the situation you want to impact?