Ladder to Leadership: Developing the Next Generation of Community Health Leaders

An RWJF National Program

“Five to 10 years from now, I would suggest that many of these folks will be running major nonprofits in this area.”—Steve Roling, president and CEO, Healthcare Foundation of Greater Kansas City

Dates of Program: September 2007 through August 2012

Field of Work: training emerging health care leaders

Problem Synopsis: Nonprofit health care organizations need skilled leaders who can serve as visionary catalysts for change while also managing day-to-day activities. Yet an impending exodus of senior managers as Baby Boomers retire threatens the sustained leadership of these organizations. And few training programs target emerging leaders.

Synopsis of the Work: The Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C., developed and implemented a 16-month training program for emerging nonprofit health care leaders. The program aimed to bolster the fellows’ organizations and communities by promoting collaboration and encouraging innovation. The program included multiday training sessions, feedback from co-workers, coaching and mentoring, and team "action learning projects" in each community.

“Since completing the program, I have spearheaded a merger of two nonprofit organizations and quadrupled my budget and employees. I went from executive director to chief executive officer. Under my leadership we have completed a strategic plan with a comprehensive succession plan. I have the best relationship with my board of directors—they were my nemesis during the Ladder to Leadership days!”—Cassandra C. Sheets, LMSW, central New York fellow

Key Results

  • Fellows and their co-workers reported that the program had increased or significantly increased fellows' leadership effectiveness, including their collaboration skills, coaching ability, and readiness for promotion. A majority of fellows had sustained these gains one year after the program.

  • Fellows and their co-workers reported a positive impact on their  organizations, including an increased ability to deal with complex challenges and bring in resources to support their organizations, and improvements in decision-making processes and work-related social networking. A majority of the fellows reported sustained gains one year after completing the program.

  • Fellows developed skills to strengthen their communities, including an increased ability to identify health-related needs and resources. One year after completing the program, fellows reported a positive impact on their communities through collaborative projects and networking.

“I have gained greater self-awareness, methods to communicate with difficult individuals, techniques to run more effective meetings, processes to confront and avoid conflict, and the confidence to speak up rather than internalize my thoughts, emotions, and ideas. I have become a more strategic and creative thinker, and have made a stronger impact in my organization and my community than I ever thought possible.”—Jane S. Sarwin, MPH, northern New Jersey fellow

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