If you read my last blog, you will know that I recently traveled from New York to Washington D.C. on the Acela train. But what I did not tell you was that I was traveling to be a speaker at AOTA’s first Middle Managers Leadership Training Seminar. Now, no doubt, you are aware that for the past few years AOTA has been convening this kind of programs for “emerging leaders,” defined as those with the desire to become leaders who are new to the profession. In contrast, the middle manager group is older, more experienced, and has already ascended into leadership positions in the facilities where they work. One of the participants is now the Director of Occupational Therapy for a school district, several others are overseeing interprofessional rehabilitation programs, and others have already developed innovative programs in specialized areas such as cancer and lymphedema care. Most tended to be in their 30’s and 40’s, in contrast to the mostly 20-something emerging leaders.
I was pleased to be a member of the instructional team, which included AOTA Vice President Virginia (Ginny) Stoeffel and Nancy Blair, who had been trainers for the AOTA Emerging Leaders Program. Nancy is an extremely impressive scholar whose research has been on leadership development, and Ginny had worked under her guidance as a doctoral student. Sue Bowles, who now works for Ancillary Care Solutions but had previously been Chief of Occupational Therapy and Director of Outpatient Services at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, was the fourth instructor. It turned out we brought complementary skills to the program, were highly compatible, and had a great time throughout the experience.
But the real stars were the participants. If the middle managers throughout our profession are of their caliber, our future is in terrific hands. What a great time we had discussing their concerns: how to get more of the practitioners they supervise to see the value of joining AOTA, how to most effectively lead interprofessional teams with fairness and equanimity, how to negotiate the ever-changing power contexts in which they find themselves at their workplaces, and how to move onward in their personal leadership trajectories. I think the big take-aways for me were: (1) I learned a very concrete and accessible approach for resolving conflict; and (2) I could see that a new generation of promising young leaders is now coming into full flower and will soon take us to the next level of professional excellence.