I recently was selected to be in charge of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Leadership for Better Health programs. The foundation is the largest philanthropic organization focused on health and has focused on improving America’s most pressing health issues for over forty years. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to support the leaders in the Foundation and our mission of producing a healthier and more equitable America. Through them, we support leaders in health care and community and population health to have more effective practices of leadership.
I could not have imagined this leadership opportunity even a year or two ago. My life and leadership journey have been one of challenges and new learning to transcend these challenges. My story, like many leaders, is one of external success leading to recurring burnout and a search for meaning. I grew up in a hard-working, middle-class family in Dominica. When I was only eight-years-old, I decided to become a physician, which no one around me took seriously. But that vision supported me to actually achieving that goal on a path that I paved with extraordinary focus. I learned to celebrate hard work from my father and a commitment to community well-being from my mother. This produced a drive and focus where I became a physician and became a leader in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
However, what appeared to be a highly successful career through extreme dedication had a dark side. My over-focus on external success and over-work resulted in me hardly see my husband and daughter. Eventually, I found myself sputtering, exhausted, my marriage ending in divorce, and finding no fulfillment in a life dominated by external success. I began to look for more meaning in my life and found myself called to help others at a profound level.
After some searching, I found the field of coaching, entered an extraordinary coaching school – Newfield Network – which helped me direct my purpose and energy again. The experience provided me with a personal transformation. I began my own coaching practice on the side with great hope but found that I could not help others find the breakthroughs that I had found.
After looking again at my path, I found the Generative Leadership coaching program, and this provided me with what had been missing. I began to have extraordinary success in my coaching as well as my own leadership role in my job. With this step of success, I decided to make a bigger commitment to coaching to help others in the healthcare field find breakthroughs in their own leadership, addressing their exhaustion, and finding their purpose. A key revelation in my generative learning was to be introduced to the role of care in life. I learned that what we care about is the foundation of value, satisfaction, and meaning. Care is what connects my spirituality to my external actions.
I also learned that the foundation of effective leadership is generative conversations that allow us to take care of what we care about with others. This produces extraordinary shifts for people and allows people to create value as professionals as well as to create a good and healthy life path.
It was my study of Generative Leadership in the Institute of Generative Leadership’s Coaching Excellence in Organizations (CEO) program that enabled me to have this opportunity and to have the confidence to make a contribution as coach and leader that I could not have imagined before.