It’s not every day that 250 top medical students from around NZ come together on a Saturday to attend the NZ Medical Students Conference, centred around the idea of being a catalyst for change.
The fact that they choose to attend this conference in their own time shows their passion, belief and commitment for providing a health system they and future generations can be proud of. These students are not passive by-standers. They want to participate and take an active role in the health system of the future. Some of these students will be our future leaders.
The subject of Leadership has always held a fascination for me, so when I was asked to talk on the subject I was delighted to accept. I have to admit I get quite a kick out of talking to our future professionals. I love the energy and enthusiasm and remember when I was in their shoes – a young 18 year old just starting off, with an unknown career ahead of me. Just like the students of today my training took me to different areas across the health sector and I remember making a mental note of what worked well and what could be improved. I also had a head full of ideas – and thanks to various mentors along the way, these brought me to the work I’m doing today at Ko Awatea.
So what makes a good leader? It was a question I was eager to ask the captive audience in front of me. Many were quick to respond and I heard that a good leader had passion – a belief in what they are doing, the ability to network and to have fun – to keep energy levels high, to refresh and to invigorate
*Marshall Ganz mentioned similar qualities when he was asked, in an interview, what advice he would give to students who wanted to lead improvement. Some of the things he mentioned were:
1. A strong belief in values – A good leader not only has a sense of who he/she is and wants to be, he/she can articulate those values to others.
2. Networks/relationships – we need to feel connected with others, whether it be through, church, work or social networks.
3. The “Joy of Work”. As Ganz says if the work is not bringing you joy, don’t do it. He also adds everybody who excels at what they do, finds some joy in the actual doing of it.
So how do we support our future doctors, nurses, managers and allied health professionals and provide them with the skills, knowledge, attitude and quality improvement tools to make work more effective, less fearful and more enjoyable.
The IHI Open School in Boston is leading the way by providing online courses and quality improvement tools that have been used for quality improvement projects around the globe. There are now 35,000 people registered with over 50 student chapters around the world.
I remember listening to an interview by Don Berwick, who wished the IHI Open School had been around when he was taking his first steps as a Junior Doctor. In his interview he talks about the excitement of being a practicing doctor and although he was confident in his ability to care for patients, there was still an anxiety about the skills and knowledge he still lacked that would make him feel more comfortable and more effective in his role.
At Ko Awatea we are about to launch an IHI Student Chapter, which will support students in their work, provide them with the tools they need to do their jobs well, to feel more effective in the role and most importantly give them a voice. It’s about connecting students not just in New Zealand but around the world. The networking and learning opportunities are immense.
It’s clear that we should start listening to what our future leaders are telling us and creating an environment that supports and prepares these young minds for the healthcare challenges they will be facing now and in the future.
So at what stage should we get involved and should we go a step further and consider putting the subject of leadership on every school curriculum’s around the country (I know it is there in some already). What do you think?
*Marshall Ganz, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, entered Harvard College in the fall of 1960. In 1964, a year before graduating, he left to volunteer as a civil rights organizer in Mississippi. In 1965, he joined Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers; over the next 16 years he gained experience in union, community, issue, and political organizing and became Director of Organizing. During the 1980s, he worked with grassroots groups to develop effective organizing programs, designing innovative voter mobilization strategies for local, state, and national electoral campaigns. In 1991, in order to deepen his intellectual understanding of his work, he returned to Harvard College and, after a 28-year “leave of absence,” completed his undergraduate degree in history and government. He was awarded an MPA by the Kennedy School in 1993 and completed his PhD in sociology in 2000. He teaches, researches, and writes on leadership, organization, and strategy in social movements, civic associations, and politics.
Check out our leadership quotations.