Leadership! My actions left me questioning that ability. The rationale behind those actions was similar to those of the Colonials in the American Revolution, standing their ground and creating their own rules of engagement with the British. Could they have read, “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu? I don’t know but on that infamous Thursday when I was ambushed and bludgeoned, the lessons from that book raced through my mind giving me the strength to strike back. And now, I stand on the balcony in control with new appreciation and understanding for my teammates.
Were my actions adaptive? Did I exercise adaptive leadership? Was I a team player? To understand my behavior and answer those questions I need to start at the beginning, my first classes at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The importance of common language and culture were immediately clear. The task of tackling “health disparity” gave me the sense that HSPH was a school where social justice was important. In those first few weeks, I learned genes were not the most important determinant of health outcomes but rather socio-environmental factors or more precisely, society.
This realization opened a new world; it was as if I gained a sixth sense. I gained a sense of awareness, an ability to connect disparate acts revealing patterns of behaviors and recurrent themes. A disconnect existed between the lessons taught in class and the reality of being a Black mid-career student at HSPH. At this great institution….A Story From the Balcony
The stage was set perfectly for controversy. We were given an impossible challenge where our competitive nature and need to shine in front of important people were at risk if we did not complete the task. Each of us had our own agenda and need to be a leader. The problem was the same beliefs and actions that contributed to health inequities or disparities were cherished values, foundational beliefs of the teams–that was the culture of our group dynamics. The ground rules were quietly cast aside despite our tense discussion and agreement of those rules on day one.
We divided into six stakeholder groups in an effort to gather information. But never identified the problems or set clear goals. There was no shared vision…A Story From The Balcony: The Disconnect