It's been decades since rock 'n' roll got its start in Memphis, Tennessee, and in that time much of the city has changed. But it still has trolleys and music, world-renowned barbecue, and, most important—an ability to inspire. At this year's Health Care/Business Institute, the River City spurred 30 speech-language pathology leaders to examine what qualities make a good leader, how good leaders can get better, and how to awaken these qualities in themselves.
They did so as part of ASHA's 2012 Leadership Development Program (LDP), a year-long program that helps members develop their leadership skills and give back to the professions through volunteering—with ASHA, in the workplace, or for a related professional organization.
But Memphis wasn't alone in providing inspiration. It came also from the program's facilitators, Kevin Nourse and Alice Waagen, who helped participants devise their year-long leadership projects. "It's fascinating to watch the progress on the individual projects," Waagen said. "They allow the participants to use skills gained in the LDP to lead change in their professional communities."
The program allowed speech-language pathologist Jamila Foreman to launch a project made possible by technological advances: using social media and podcasts to increase awareness of and advocacy for outpatient speech-language services, often restricted by health insurance programs. "I hope to collaborate with other colleagues to increase ASHA's lobbying efforts," said Foreman, owner of Find Your Voice Communication Specialists, PLLC, in Charlotte, North Carolina. "Being able to work on that as an individual, but having the support of a team around you to encourage you is, I think, one of the greatest benefits."
SLP Barbara Zucker agreed. "I feel like I have 29 new, close friends who are very supportive, and share a good connection in terms of our projects for the year," said Zucker, director of the Clinics for Speech, Language, and Communication at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. For Zucker, too, the LDP offered a chance to try new things.
"I had ideas for leadership projects—but ideas that weren't ever coming to life. I was doing so many other things. I felt like if I applied to do [the LDP], it would make one of them happen." Now Zucker is working on a mentoring program for clinical educators, including a listserv and a two-hour, online training module in clinical education. She hopes to interest SLPs in becoming clinical educators or to get involved in other ways.
Along with personal projects, facilitators Waagen and Nourse also encouraged self-awareness. "The design of the program has emotional intelligence at its core," Nourse said. "Emotionally intelligent people are skilled at consciously adapting their behavior based on situational factors." Emotional intelligence is a collection of related skills enabling people to be aware of—and manage—their own emotional state as well as those of others. After administering an emotional intelligence self-assessment, the facilitators invited participants to identify specific competencies they wanted to develop to propel their leadership projects.
The benefits of such self-examination weren't lost on the participants. SLP Ann Guernon said she hoped to apply what she'd learned about incorporating emotional intelligence into leadership in her work at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton, Illinois. "It all starts with the inner core of your behavioral skills, and how you manage that, and bring it across in your work," she said.
SLP Christina Kelley also looked to apply self-awareness to her work. "Over the next year we'll analyze 15 areas, ways we can be more effective leaders in our workplace," explained Kelley, of the TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas. "Looking at what your highest and lowest ratings are, you can develop goals for how you can move forward in your career."
The profession needs to cultivate this sort of leadership, says Janet Brown, ASHA's director of health care services in speech-language pathology. "Our profession needs more members who not only provide outstanding clinical service, but who take on administrative and policy roles that will shape how health care is delivered in the future," she said. "The goal of the LDP is to inspire them to grow into these other roles as their careers advance."
Participant Melissa Lonsky said the program has put her on that path by motivating her to increase her involvement with her state organization and ASHA. "I thought this would be a good springboard for me to do that," said Lonsky, an SLP with Family Speech and Therapy Services in Andover/Elk River, Minnesota.
But the day-long seminar in Memphis was only the beginning. Other program components await the participants: six webinars on selected leadership topics, and further work with their learning teams to develop and complete individual projects.
The audiology cohort of this year's LDP meets for its kick-off meeting on July 14 at the ASHA national office in Rockville, Maryland, to begin developing its own year-long projects.
Such robust programs are relatively rare among associations, according to facilitator Nourse. "The LDP is a strong testament to ASHA's commitment to enhancing the satisfaction and involvement of its members," he said. "Our experience has been that few associations make this kind of investment in developing future leaders."
Along with knowledge and practical experience, the program also offers opportunities. According to Andrea Falzarano, ASHA director of association governance operations, it's an opportunity for members to "make lasting friendships, learn skills to advance their careers, and take the next step toward becoming a future leader at ASHA, their state association, or their work setting."
SLPs also need to look outward to become better leaders, Brown said. "The LDP empowers clinicians to think about making a difference in large health care systems at a time of overwhelming change. The tools they learn and the support they receive from one another encourage them to think big and take risks to grow as leaders."
To Leslie Hammond, owner of Therapy Zone, a pediatric private practice in South Haven, Mississippi, the program is also a resource for developing leaders on her own staff. She valued learning what would make her a better leader, but also looked forward to "empowering my employees to be better leaders."
For more details, including application guidelines and sample projects, visit ASHA's Leadership Development Program webpage.