In reflecting over the past year as Academic Pediatric Association (APA) President, I realized from before I started that it would be work, and I realized it would be a growth experience, and I had a lot of hope that I would enjoy it all, but I didn't realize the depth of the opportunity, how much I would learn and how at the end I would feel even more tied to the organization that has been an academic home for me for over 15 years.
While I have grown and developed both at my home institution and within the APA over the past 15 plus years, the APA has also grown and developed. I wonder if the founders of the APA would recognize it today. When that group, led by Barbara Korsch, began this journey in the 1950s they saw it is an opportunity to bring together members of outpatient pediatrics to discuss the issues of the day that affected them, including costs, time and workload, appointment and record systems, standards of care, research and teaching potential, and clinical areas such as child development, mental health, adolescents and children with special needs.
- Roberts KB
- Stein REK
- Cheng TL
The Academic Pediatric Association: the first 50 years.
In the 1960s, the APA was born to focus on research, education and care within general pediatrics; with active participation of the membership. These areas of focus still hold true today and have contributed to the substantial and real programmatic growth we have seen in the 21st century in the APA.
We now serve our members and offer opportunities that support their career development that are quite different from the past. Throughout the 1970s to 90s, much of the growth in the organization was based on the President's Projects that were supported by the board and generated task forces. In the late 1990s, Lucy Osborn's Presidential Project led to the National Faculty Development Scholars program, from which the Educational Scholars Program was later developed and is a model for our other Scholars Programs.
We now have programs that reach out to members who pursue a multitude of different scholarly endeavors. This growth has been built based on member needs and interests and in many ways is now based on grass roots efforts of our members and Board with leadership support, with the President Projects now a thing of the past. This growth has substantially changed what we offer and how we support our members and how our leadership thinks of our next endeavors and plans.
In the past few years, there was also recognition that this change and growth meant that we needed to rethink our structure on many levels; how are we organized, what administrative support do we need, how does our board function? These brought forward other questions; do we have the right board size, does our board govern or manage? Do we have the right staffing plan to support our programs, Board and leaders? These questions necessitated some hard looking inwardly, partly through our strategic planning process and through many other discussions. We recognized that our growth called for change in how we functioned as a Board and leadership team; we needed to be strategic.
Once we determined a change plan for our bigger questions, we also recognized that in order to continue to grow, while maintaining what was successful, we needed programmatic changes that would bring about efficiencies in processes and alignment with our mission and strategic plan. While this is not the fun stuff, and it can be difficult, it was clear that it was essential for us to best use our resources while supporting our members. So we've done a lot of bringing together leadership to discuss best practices and share; both of our committee chairs and our scholar's program director, and our region and Special Interest Group chairs; bringing together leadership and staff to improve communication and streamline roles and responsibilities, and building new committee structures to organize and harness the talent of our members in a constructive manner. They have been incredibly productive in just their first year—look at the Pediatric Academic Societies ambassadors program, new members’ session, new communication strategy, including newsletter and new social media committee.
Mary Ottolini, our incredible immediate past president, brought us a new mission and strategic plan based on the successes of our predecessors and the needs of our current and future members. My goals were to put our organization on a strong footing to make that plan a reality while strengthening our current programs and alliances and building a new committee structure that will be the engine for new ideas and programs to support our members. Working extremely closely with our APA Board and staff, we have moved our strategic plan forward, brought about efficiencies in our processes, brought more members into committees, and by doing this allowed for more growth of our members and our organization.
Reflecting on this year and the work that we have accomplished, I thought a great deal about leadership and what it means to me and how I ended up here. As an introvert, I don't often think of myself as taking positions of leadership, but somehow I have. This brought me to think more about the qualities that help leaders to be successful. Reading through multiple lists of the qualities of great leaders, some qualities are mentioned commonly: honesty, integrity, loyalty, enthusiasm, likability, communication skills, competence as a manager, decision making capability, and empowering those around you. I have had the privilege, through my work in the APA and in other areas, to work with and learn from very accomplished great leaders, some of whom were more senior to me and whom I was following, others who were my colleagues that I was collaborating with. By watching, listening intently and learning, I have come to understand how people with different personalities and styles can be effective leaders, and in turn who I wanted to be as a leader, including what I needed to build and grow.
Each of the qualities I mentioned is important to think about. Some are personal qualities one exudes to others on a regular basis and allows others to be confident and comfortable in seeking one as a mentor and support—loyalty, honesty, integrity, enthusiasm, and likability. How we exude these characteristics lets others know how open we are to listening, to hearing their opinions, thoughts and ideas. It allows others to see one as safe to express their concerns or problems to and to know that we will be there for them and help them in their growth.
Others are skills that often need to be developed and continually worked on: communication skills, managerial competence, and decision-making capability. Structured training, reflection on one's abilities and practice can often improve and develop these skills. But, that takes recognition of our own opportunities for improvement and seeking training. It also importantly takes the ability to reflect on prior and current problems, how have we handled them, could we have done better and would someone else have solved this differently. Asking for and seeking assistance in challenging situations, talking through the challenges and options and listening to others opinions can all help us improve our skillset.
On the other hand, we also need to be able to recognize the skills we have for a multitude of reasons. Recognizing our skills in these areas allows us to perform our tasks more competently and confidently and it also allows us to recognize what skills we have that we can teach others. Being able to reflect on a job well done and recognizing how we were able to do it well, helps to prepare us for the next challenge and builds our own internal support system and confidence. Reflection needs to allow for both recognition of opportunities for improvement, but also, and equally important, recognition of our strengths and what we have accomplished. This reflection can continue to fuel us and for some of us may be just as hard as recognizing our need to continually improve.
Empowering others is one of the more important qualities that I think takes longer to learn its importance and practice. Partly because early on we are focused on our own successes and we don't often think we have things to give to others to empower them. Who are we to teach or how do we take a step back to give others the room to have power and make decisions without us? And probably most scary, if we empower others will we still be needed? Many hold onto power for just this reason, not recognizing that empowering others brings more than it takes, more work can be accomplished, those around us are happier and more fulfilled in their work and watching them flourish and hopefully exceed our work is in itself fulfilling and joyful.
In thinking about empowering others I was reminded of the concept of a servant leader as described by Robert Greenleaf.,
The servant leader embodies the qualities of leadership that I have described but does it by putting the needs of those around them first. Through sharing power and knowledge and helping those around to perform to their best, servant leaders are able to create teams that perform better than any one individual in an environment that thrives and produces.
Similarly, Liz Wiseman
Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.
speaks of leaders who multiply the people around them through optimizing and supporting talent, creating an environment that is challenging but open, encouraging discussion of decisions and giving people credit for success.
Both of these concepts have in common that success can come from recognizing your team's strengths as individuals and together and harnessing their talents, especially those talents that they have that you do not. Instead of being frightened by the talent that surrounds you, celebrate it and use it to your advantage to build more than you ever could alone.
I have learned that supporting others in their leadership development is essential. This past year a working group of the APA spent time reviewing the literature regarding leadership training and submitted to the Board a statement on the direction the APA should consider in its next steps in developing leadership training programs. This work is core to both my interests but more importantly to what will sustain our members and the APA in the future. For us at the APA to serve our mission, we need well-trained leaders for our programs, committees, and Board. In addition, our members need leadership skills to fulfil their personal academic goals. With the ultimate goal of both the APA and our individual members to best be able to enhance the health and well-being of all children—The ultimate goal for all of us
Thank you to the Members of the APA for this tremendous opportunity and honor to have been your President for the past year. Thank you to the APA Board and staff, led by Jessica Konrath, for all of your support and hard work.
- Roberts KB
- Stein REK
- Cheng TL
The Academic Pediatric Association: the first 50 years.Acad Pediatr. 2011; 11: 173-180
The Servant as Leader. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership,
Greenleaf RK. The Servant as Leader. Center for Servant Leadership. Available at:https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/. Accessed February 1, 2018.
Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. Harper Business,
New York, NY2010
Published online: February 06, 2020
The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Copyright © 2020 by Academic Pediatric Association