Public Health Leadership Development: Factors Contributing to Growth

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Abstract

Objective:

This study compares pre- and posttest Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI-Self) scores for public health leaders who completed the Regional Institute for Health and Environmental Leadership (RIHEL) training program at least 2 years earlier; it seeks to identify factors contributing to changes in practices and overall leadership development for public health and environment leaders.

Participants/Setting:

Sixty-seven alumni who completed the yearlong RIHEL program between 1999 and 2002 participated through mailed surveys and phone interviews.

Main Outcome Measures:

The Leadership Practices Inventory, an alumni leadership development survey, and interviews provided evidence for positive change in leadership practices.

Results:

Alumni experienced significant increases in pre- to post-LPI scores, collaborative leadership practices, and communication skills consistent with those taught in the RIHEL program. Women presented higher Encourage the Heart scores than men. Years of public health service negatively correlated with Total Change scores of LPI. The RIHEL program as a training intervention was credited significantly with changes in leadership practices for alumni studied. Nine influencing factors were identified for leadership development and are embedded in a Leadership Development Influence Model. These include self-awareness, a leadership development framework, and skills important in multiple leadership situations. Confidence was both an encouraging factor and a resulting factor to the increased exemplary leadership practices.

Conclusion:

Leadership development in public health must include multiple factors to create consistent increases in exemplary leadership practices. While the study focused on the leadership development process itself, RIHEL training was reported as having a positive, significant impact overall in participant leadership development. This study adds research data as a foundation for training content areas of focus. Studies to further test the Leadership Development Influence Model will allow public health training programs to pinpoint training where it can make a difference to improve leadership development in the public health sector.

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