Leadership 101 at Convention What you’ll learn about leadership in the Empowerment Zone will surprise you. For one thing, it involves making mistakes. From the President
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From the President  |   August 01, 2018
Leadership 101 at Convention
Author Notes
  • Elise Davis-McFarland, PhD, CCC-SLP, is former vice president for student affairs at Trident College and developer of the interdisciplinary graduate Communication Sciences and Disorders Program at the Medical University of South Carolina. She is also past chair of ASHA’s Committee on Honors and past coordinator of ASHA Special Interest Group 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity, among other ASHA posts. elisedavismcfarland@gmail.com
    Elise Davis-McFarland, PhD, CCC-SLP, is former vice president for student affairs at Trident College and developer of the interdisciplinary graduate Communication Sciences and Disorders Program at the Medical University of South Carolina. She is also past chair of ASHA’s Committee on Honors and past coordinator of ASHA Special Interest Group 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity, among other ASHA posts. elisedavismcfarland@gmail.com×
Article Information
ASHA News & Member Stories / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / From the President
From the President   |   August 01, 2018
Leadership 101 at Convention
The ASHA Leader, August 2018, Vol. 23, 6-7. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.23082018.6
The ASHA Leader, August 2018, Vol. 23, 6-7. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.23082018.6
This year, the Empowerment Zone returns to the 2018 ASHA Convention in Boston as part of the event’s continuing emphasis on leadership. Also returning with his message of being a leader every day is 2016 convention keynoter Drew Dudley. This year’s meeting focuses on “Revolutionary Learning, Evolutionary Practice,” so Dudley’s inspirational message is apt.
The Empowerment Zone is your one-stop shop for honing invaluable—and actionable—leadership skills: Among other options, you can determine your leadership style, find out your advocacy type, build your personal brand, and learn about ASHA’s leadership programs, including its Leadership Academy (which includes webinars and assessments), Leadership Mentoring Program, and Leadership Development Program (LDP).
This kind of purposeful work on leadership is available in the Empowerment Zone, where I volunteered at last year’s convention. The offerings underscore that leadership roles aren’t necessarily as obvious as mine as ASHA president. And, for the most part, being a leader shouldn’t be about top-down thinking and unilateral directives. It involves many different styles and approaches—and a whole lot of listening and flexibility.

Not considering what could have made a better decision is a bigger failure than the mistake itself.

Adaptability … and confidence
Flexibility in leadership was the focus of a talk I gave to an ASHA 2018 LDP cohort this spring. Different situations may call for different types of leadership. Time, circumstances and the issue at hand can require shifts: Leaders must be willing to change course, if necessary, or reverse a decision that does not serve its intended purpose. I like to think of myself as an inclusive leader. Before making a decision, I always solicit input from people more steeped in the subject matter, as well as those the decision will affect.
Delegation is another important leadership skill. When you call on others to do what they can do well, it frees you up to do what you can do well. However, there are also times when inclusiveness and delegation are not practical or possible.
Sometimes situations arise that require an immediate decision and there is no time to develop a consensus. This requires you to rely on your knowledge of the situation, the desired outcome, and the possible consequences of a wrong decision. Depending on the situation, that can be daunting. But leadership, fundamentally, is about willingness to make the decision—and to face the consequences if it’s the wrong one.
I’ve had that experience. I have made the wrong decision and had to face the outcome for myself and the people involved. But I have used each case to learn how I can avoid making the same mistake again. This is what leadership writer John Maxwell calls “failing forward” in his book of the same name. The idea is that whatever your mistakes might be, if you learn from them you have not failed.

Whatever your mistakes might be, if you learn from them you have not failed.

From negative to positive
It can be hard to remember to look for the positive when facing a bad outcome of your own making. But if you can see it as growth, the bad outcome may not feel like such a loss. When I talk to graduate students about leadership, I tell them they will make mistakes as leaders. We all do. But I advise them that their next step should be to ask themselves, “What could I have done differently to avoid making that mistake?” If they can’t think of anything they could have done differently, that may be why they made the mistake.
There is almost always a better way when your way didn’t work. Not considering what could have made a better decision is a bigger failure than the mistake itself. Successful leaders can look at themselves critically and respond accordingly. A student once told me she didn’t think she could look at herself critically. I advised her to rethink this because critical self-evaluation and openness to others’ feedback are both essential ingredients of evolving leaders.

Successful leaders can look at themselves critically and respond accordingly.

Leaders are successful when they can inspire a shared vision. But to do this, they must gain others’ respect and confidence by considering the varied interests of—and making the best decisions for—the group as a whole. Showing respect and support for those who help achieve the vision is key to realizing it.
We are all growing and learning as we wend our way along our leadership path. Come and learn more—and have fun doing it—at the Empowerment Zone at convention. I know I said you’ll make mistakes as leaders, but trust me, this will not be one of them.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for many more 2018 ASHA Convention happenings and highlights in the September convention preview issue.
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August 2018
Volume 23, Issue 8