During September 21-23, 2012 I attended the Teaching for Advanced Leadership in KILN (T.A.L.K.) retreat which was led by Drs. Judith Vessey, Annette Debisette, and Viola Benavente. There were many activities through which I was able to reflect on my leading method and on ways of improving my leadership skills. For example, the group discussed different leadership styles that included transformational, transactional, servant, autocratic, and democratic. Although my personal preference is servant leadership, being a great leader means being able to use all of these different styles. There will be scenarios in which one approach may work better than the one preferred.
Servant leaders are selfless; when making decisions they prioritize the needs of the whole group and do what is best for the group. Because of this, I hope to become an exemplar of servant leadership. To be a servant leader in nursing, one has to do two major things. Firstly, one must listen, understand the patient’s feelings and circumstances, and empathize with the patient to develop an individualized plan that will help the patient heal. This will create an environment in which the patient will feel valued and understood, despite being in a vulnerable state. Secondly, one also has to look beyond the sickness and understand how the illness has affected the patient. For instance, one should never refer to another person as a “diabetic”. The term “diabetic” has a negative connotation because it defines the person instead of giving the impression that diabetes is just a condition one has and can manage. Using the phrase “a person who has diabetes” instead of the adjective “diabetic” acknowledges the person and their experiences.
Another fun activity I got to do was writing my elevator speech. I never realized that I should have an elevator speech but it can be useful when unexpected networking opportunities arise. Networking does not only happen at conferences and meetings; it can happen anywhere. I can unexpectedly run into someone who might be able to provide me with opportunities to grow professionally. Having an elevator speech prepared can help me make a lasting first impression when such situations arise in the future.
During this retreat, I was also asked to write my fantasy obituary. This is an activity that made me think of my future. It increased my awareness of goals that I had and got me thinking about new ones as well. I enjoy working with children and the exercise reassured me that this is a population I see myself working with. Moreover, not only did I become aware of my desire to pursue a master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner, but I also started to consider the option of eventually pursuing a PhD so that I can teach.
Jodi Smith, president of Mannersmith, taught a helpful professional etiquette class. I learned when it is appropriate to send an email and when it is necessary to have a conversation over the phone. I also realized the importance of always carrying a pen and notepad with me to meetings because materials may not be provided. I also learned more about how to dress professionally; in fact I learned that colors have a meaning and I should consider that when dressing for a job interview. For example, oranges and browns give a sense of friendliness; purple portrays royalty; navy blue gives a sense of trust; and pale pinks are calming and maternal. Therefore, if I was going to an interview for a neonatal floor, I may wear a pale pink shirt.
Overall, this experience was extremely beneficial. T.A.L.K enabled me to think more about my future and improve my leadership skills. It also provided me with the knowledge to start building my professional persona. Once I have fully accomplished this, I only hope to pass along my knowledge and experiences to others who have not.