Every year, three vice presidents and the immediate past president and, this year, the chair of the Speech-Language Pathology Advisory Council, complete their terms of service on the ASHA Board of Directors. And every year, the membership has the opportunity to nominate colleagues to fill these positions in the ongoing cycle of ASHA volunteer leadership.
As this important process begins again with the call for nominations, I visited with the outgoing class of board members to learn a little about their leadership journeys and how they began.
All five members became leaders early in their lives—well before they ever thought about communication sciences and disorders or ASHA. Their tendencies toward leadership grew out of family models or personal commitments to service. They also answered the question: “Why not me?”—instead of “Why me?”—and answered “I can do that.” They typically began as youth leaders in 4-H, scouts or choir and continued their leadership roles—after making college and career decisions—in the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association and campus life.
The concept of volunteering became a shared undercurrent in their observations, as did the idea of others seeing things in them that they did not see in themselves. Once these future ASHA board members chose their careers, new leadership opportunities opened up, like volunteering for community organizations and state association committees and boards, along with ASHA committees, boards, councils and Special Interest Groups.
All of these individual and varied experiences not only continued to build the leadership skills of these board members, but also gave them new insight into the professions and the association. They said their involvement in community and professional activities put them in the right place at the right time and prepared them to make strategic differences. They noted that serving on the ASHA board increased their:
- Understanding of the vast scope of the professions.
- Appreciation for the power and synergy of people who are willing to work together.
- Ability to be a better listener.
- Ability to take a broader perspective on an issue.
- Trust in colleagues and their leadership.
- Understanding about the importance of all of the above in conflict resolution.
- Increased ability to think differently about decision-making, from generative to strategic to opportunistic.
Outgoing board members shared these ideas universally. Most important, they felt the trust placed in them by our membership gave them the opportunity to make a difference for that membership and others they served. All of these experiences carried over and informed their daily professional roles and responsibilities as well. They feel they provide better “on-the-job” leadership because of their board service.
Consider your own leadership journey. It probably already began in ways you may not fully appreciate. Continue to find paths to pursue it. Think about saying “yes” to new opportunities at all levels of service. Giving back to the profession in these ways also builds your character as a leader and enhances your leadership journey … perhaps even leading you to ASHA’s board of directors.
Elizabeth McCrea, PhD, CCC-SLP, is 2015 immediate past ASHA president. firstname.lastname@example.org