Magazine article The Nation's Health

Defining the Characteristics of Public Health Leadership

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Defining the Characteristics of Public Health Leadership

Article excerpt

FOR EVERY MAJOR MOVEMENT in U.S. history, there have been those who have led the way. Strong, dedicated leaders come to mind when thinking of movements that have supported issues such as civil rights, women, gay rights, unions and farm workers.

The current movement for health equity, social justice and human rights has had--and will continue to demand--leadership. That leadership must be identified, nurtured, supported and protected to be a part of change and make a difference.

The unrelenting, uncompromising moral force of leadership is demanded now, perhaps in ways we haven't seen in the past. As I sit at my desk looking at pictures of my wife and children, I am touched by their human needs and aspirations. A little above them is a photo of President Barack Obama. His wife and children and his leadership journey screams out in its march to success.

But what is leadership? Are leaders born or are they made? Do they just show up? Do the rest of us offload our responsibilities to the "leader" and just sit back and watch? There is an old saying that classifies people into three groups: those who sit and watch things happen, those who make things happen and those who ask what happened. It doesn't take much to figure out which group we'll find the leaders in.

Much has been written about leadership, but as the end of my term as APHA president next month approaches, I want to share a few thoughts on what makes a leader.

Here are the characteristics I believe are required for leadership:

* Vision: Having a clear vision is a requisite quality. …

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