October 10, 2022

Wisdom from ELAM 2022

In September, I had the privilege of learning from and with a group of amazing people in the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) and Executive Leadership in Healthcare (ELH) programs, dedicated to leadership training for women and housed at Drexel University College of Medicine. I manage a tremendous group of executive coaches who provide services to the nearly 100 professionals attending these programs for 2022-2023. It is a true privilege and learning experience for me every time I get to be with this group.

As I attend the fall meeting each year, I try to capture some of the “Wisdom from ELAM” and share it on this blog, with the permission of the ELAM leadership. I hope you will be inspired by some of the key learnings I took with me from this fall’s meeting. Here goes:

As part of the diversity, equity and inclusion curriculum, the group took part in Upstander Training (led by Dr. Jean Marie Alves-Bradford, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Global Mental Health Programs) to help us all learn how to respond as allies in the face of micro- and macroaggressions toward others in a variety of situations. Among the lessons that stayed with me after this training:

First, the Four Pillars of Upstander Training

  • You must stay engaged in your own learning as you build Upstander skills
  • You can expect to experience discomfort as you learn to deal with these situations
  • You must speak your truth to be an effective Upstander
  • You must expect and accept that there may be a lack of closure in any given situation.

Second, safe space to have these discussions cannot be promised. However, brave spaces can be created. (More on that in a bit.)

From the Finance and Accounting curriculum, Margie Spencer, MBA recommended a “three-month rule” for dealing with operational and financial contingency planning:

  • Month 1 – Identify that something is amiss before anyone else does.
  • Month 2 – Understand what the root causes of the problem were – someone will want to know!
  • Month 3 – Have your plan for what you will do about the issue and be able to articulate it clearly.

Again from the DEI curriculum, Elizabeth Petty, MD, senior associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (and co-editor of The Equal Curriculum: The Student and Educator Guide to LGBTQ Health) encouraged us all to “be champions of human flourishing.” This is a worthy goal and a personal aspiration of mine. Thank you, Dr. Petty, for the work you do in this space.

I had the privilege of moderating a panel of outstanding ELAM graduates and leaders, Erika Brown, PhD (associate director, ELAM Program, ELAM ‘15); Sara Jo Grethlein, MD, MBA (Associate Director, ELH Program, ELAM ’07) and Deborah Wing, MD (ELAM Special Advisor, ELAM ’13). We discussed the topic of executive presence from the perspective of three ELAM graduates who are now leaders. We focused the conversation on managing the tension between “conforming to the dominant culture and showing up as our authentic selves” as we develop leadership presence. Many topics were discussed at length, including an invitation to create a brave space in which to have the conversation and learn together about different perspectives. The opening quote for the panel, originally written by Grace Judson in this blog post, was this:

In brave space, we can freely, yet considerately, share our thoughts and describe our experience. In brave space, we have the option to explore ourselves and the world around us. We can have passionate, constructive debate and disagreement, broaden our horizons, see new perspectives, and maybe even create ideas and solutions that are far better than any of us could develop within the careful confines of “safe space.”

I invite us all to strive to create safe space when needed to deal with trauma and other psychological issues, but to create and step into brave space when we are trying to learn together on difficult issues.

And to round out my Wisdom from ELAM, this post would simply not be complete if I did not channel some of the prodigious amount of wisdom shared by the indefatigable Lilly Marks. This isn’t the first time I have quoted Lilly on this blog. Here are some new pearls of wisdom paraphrased and abstracted from Lilly:

There are many types of leadership around us:

  • Positional leadership in which authority is conferred by job description and title
  • Thought leadership, developed through influence and resulting in respect and trust from others
  • Leadership from the back row, often without credit
  • Moral leadership as the acknowledged conscience of a group or organization
  • Ring “leadership” – be aware of these people and beware of them. Know and understand how to recognize and manage them

And Lilly shared a wealth of additional wisdom, including:

  • It takes work to be the smartest person in the room – but not that much!
  • Show up and speak up – there are no shortcuts!
  • When you move up a level of leadership, manage your transition from front-line contributor to leader. The roles are different.
  • The role of leadership in a crisis is to hold up the sky!

Finally, I have to recognize the leadership and dedication of one of my own ELAM classmates, Mary Anne Delaney, MD, associate director of ELAM for many years and ELAM ’08. Mary Anne was celebrated as she begins her fifth retirement at the end of this year. I want to personally thank her for what she has taught me over the years, and for her dedication to this amazing program. Thank you for all that you have done, Mary Anne. And here’s to a wonderful next season in your life.

I hope you all don’t mind indulging me in sharing the many things I learned as I participated in this phenomenal program. There are leadership pearls here for all of us, and I hope you find them as inspiring as I do.

Unlock your potential and align with what matters most to you. 

It’s that simple.


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