What Makes a Great Leader? Thoughts from the Next Generation

Aging Today, September/October 2012 | Go to article overview

What Makes a Great Leader? Thoughts from the Next Generation


In early spring, ASA conducted the inaugural session of its Leadership Academy, which ran for three months, culminating in a five-day leadership track at the 2012 Aging in America Conference. The Academy curricula included web seminars, leadership development plan lectures by leaders in the field of aging and other online tools. Aging Today recently asked three graduates of the Academy for their thoughts on leadership.

Kathleen J. Bailey is director of the Clinton Senior Center and Council on Aging in Clinton, Mass.

Aging Today: What qualities are required in a good leader, and what extra qualities might be necessary to succeed in the field of aging?

Vision, passion and action, blended with humility and authenticity, have always inspired me. I was fortunate to work for the best and brightest leaders in the computer and telecommunications industries. I remember sitting in a meeting with Bill Foster, CEO of Stratus Computer, Inc., and other top executives from Silicon Valley: they made me feel included, excited, focused and valued as part of their team working on a common goal. Leaders in the aging network must empower with these same qualities of passion, humility and authenticity.

What might be done to fill the breach of leaders in the field of aging?

We need to cultivate and support newcomers. As Barbara Waxman said in the Leadership Academy, "There is no scarcity of opportunity." However, people that operate in a system with ongoing scarcity of resources behave as if their job is at risk. We should do succession planning now, and part ofthat is to create positions to address the scarcity of resources.

We need to balance salaries for leaders throughout the network. Salaries reflect the value we place on leadership and we want best practices to flourish at all levels of the network.

Where does the greatest need for leadership lie in the field of aging?

The connecting pieces of the network are still too weak. We [all] chase the same grant funds to keep our own organizations thriving.

Is leadership in this field more crucial on the local or national level?

We need both local and national leadership to complement one another.

Who inspires you as a leader in the field of aging?

Jim Sykes, a seasoned professional who leads with high expectations, passion for continuous improvement in the field and support for advocates with heart and courage. We are only custodians of this work as it is passed from generation to generation.

JFK said, "One person can make a difference and every person should try." How will you go about making a difference in the field of aging?

By pushing the comfort zone of the existing aging services network for continuous improvement.

Jeffrey E. Hall, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., C.P.H., is a behavioral scientist in the Etiology and Surveillance Branch, Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga.

Aging Today: What qualities are required in a good leader, and what extra qualities might be necessary to succeed in the field of aging?

A good leader must possess a servant's heart (an inherent, genuine concern about the needs and well-being of others), a carpenter's hands (the ability to take meaningful action on behalf of others, using raw materials to create value where none exists) and a visionary's eyes (the ability to accurately comprehend the status of the present, envision possible futures and devise effective, relevant plans).

What qualities are necessary to succeed in the field of aging?

Initiative: a constant readiness to create or contribute to new ventures that may benefit older adults.

Clarity of purpose: knowing why aging-related work matters to you and why it should matter to everyone; being aware of specific goals; planning to. maximize the likelihood of attaining those goals. …

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