Raising Leaders: Random Thoughts about Work, Health Equity, and Our Daughter
I find it odd how seemingly disparate parts of my life tend to come into rhythm. I am Assistant Boss in our Department, and there are two other Assistant Bosses. I am also Co-Troop Leader for our Girl Scout Troop, and I also serve as the Troop Treasurer and Troop Cookie Manager. I am Co-Chair now of the American Academy of Pediatrics Climate Change and Health Local Chapter. I signed on to be on the Public Health Advisory Board of the Climate Action Campaigns, which is a very effective non-profit which has been moving our area closer to our climate goals. There are also the many responsibilities as part of my Assistant Boss role that I am responsible for. Plus I’m Dr. Plastic Picker, head litter-picker and sole-writer of my blog! Other than Dr. Plastic Picker, it is time for me to re-evaluate the leadership structure of our department, our Girl Scout Troop and the environmental advocacy groups.
I had taken most of Saturday off and did not think too much about work or leadership. I wrote a blog post and went litter picking in the morning. The rest of the day, I binge-watched the four Hunger Game movies with my daughter out of sequence. The binge-watching was mostly on Saturday, but we did watch the last movie last weekend and part of one of the movies Friday night after Sponge Bob the Musical. Our daughter has read the series at least three times, and she is now reading it aloud to herself or whoever will listen. She has the just published prequel ready as a treat to herself to read. I think she is delaying reading the book because she wants to savor it, just like she savors the last bit of food at dinner. She waits until everyone is done eating, and she always has the best bite to eat when everyone is done. Isn’t that interesting? I just realized the connection now.
As I was sitting with our daughter watching Hunger Games, I was drawn into the heroine Katniss Everdeen. The last scene of Mockingjay Part 2 is when Katniss has her bow and arrow and rather than killing President Snow, who was for most of the movies been the arch-villain, she let her arrow fly to pierce the heart of President Coin. The rebellion mob finished President Snow off, so he died anyway. This is a dramatic scene because President Coin had been the rebellion leader, but was trying to seize power and reperpetuate some of the inequities and systems that President Snow and the Capitol had in place just now with the victors from the outlying Districts. The symbol of the rebellion Katniss Everdeen the Mockingjay killed the rebel president because even a rebellion leader is subject to the temptations of absolute power.
There are limits in drawing parallels in life to fictional worlds. I joke about Star Trek and the coming of the Vulcans on Stardate 2063, but I hope that we do not get to the point of Hunger Games and require violence to ensure transitions of leadership. But the themes brought up in Hunger Games are important to consider. Symbols are important and figures are important, but establishing fair and equitable systems is the answer.
By the time Sunday rolled around this weekend, my mind had cleared enough that I settled in and did a lot of administrative/leadership work. This work is always never done at work. Clinic is too busy with people in and out of my office, inefficient emails chains, pinging text messages, virtual meetings. I simply cannot think at the office. I just do things. I do things I need to do, that are mostly by pattern recognition which is what a lot of my clinical work is now that I have been doing it for almost 2 decades. But rethinking leadership structures is not something I can do at work.
So I settled in on Sunday while the kids were reading and relaxing, and I wrote several documents. One was a compilation of thoughts on our current department leadership structure called “Thing One, Thing Two, Thing Three.” I need to get consensus with the other Assistant Bosses. One of the keys to this document is how the Assistant Bosses are chosen, and how long they serve. We have some dissent right now as a term is six years. I would like it to be limited to 1 term, and one of my colleagues wants it to be 2 terms. I would like the position to be open to application and then confirmation by a committee. My colleague thinks the Head Boss should be able to choose so they can choose who they will work well. And this is the core of the issue. The document will only have power if there is agreement. A unilateral document just by me has no power.
This is my fundamental issue with the system, which dovetails right now with #blacklivesmatter movement. We have to fix the system. Everyone tends to select and judge worthy those that look like them or those that they feel “comfortable” with. I replied back to my fellow Assistant Boss, “Do we really think the Boss should just pick the assistant bosses? We should discuss, I know Boss got to pick us but that is why the system is ripe for corruption. Even with the previous Boss, I always felt it was whoever he liked. And that puts an inherent racial, gender and all kinds of biases into the system. Maybe it should be the Boss decides but nominations can be made by everyone, you apply and comment by the steering committee? That way it’s like a cabinet position almost?” My co-Boss had said her comments were her two cents, but I replied back “How about 1.5 terms? (offering a compromise). That’s 9 years. I mean by 9 years it’s time to move on right? We got to puit in term limits.” We have some back and forth still and my last email this morning is “We have got to agree or I can take it out. The power in it is from a consensus from all 3 of us. So all of us only have 2 cents.”
We are still working on this document and this system. It’s important work and it will take some time. I have a lot of hope. And it is with that hope, I finished my evening working on our Girl Scout Financial Tracking worksheet yesterday. I have enjoyed my six years now as Girl Scout Co-Troop Leader but that is a position that no one else has wanted. It’s pretty much been just the two of us this entire time, with some sporadic help from other parents. In that part of my life, I have the opposite issue where we need to encourage more engagement from other parents. A bit in frustration as I reviewed the somewhat cumbersome process of submitting our yearly financial reports, I texted my fellow Co-Troop leader
“Did anyone step up for treasurer and cookies? I can forward them some of the trainings now and add them to our account. I’m taking more regional work and took some climate change board positions in SD so will need to start opening up time. I think this will be good for both of us. It seems we really need to be a more co-op model for the troop leadership. It would be the greatest of ironies if we allow being Girl Scouts Troop Leaders, a leadership program, to hold ourselves back in our own career progession.”
We dialouged back and forth about how to make this a reality, and even with this – I have hope.
So that was what I was thinking about this weekend. Hunger Games and the Mockingjay piercing the heart of the rebel leader that was about to perpetuate another system of injustice, leadership transition in our own department, Girl Scouts and the burden that places on the working mothers that often lead these troops, and my own tween daughter.
She is my moral beacon and what I use as my guide. I asked her if she would be okay if I stepped down as Girl Scout Troop leader a few weeks ago, and she almost broke out into tears. She said that Girl Scouts is our time together. At that point, I knew that I had to figure out how to make it work and to fix the troop leadership system. She also told me she wants to be a pediatrician, and she loves the idea of being able to organize office parties. She likes that her mother is Assistant Boss. I imagine her sitting in a similar office to mine, and with the same opportunities. To be a good role model for her, I have committed to finishing my six year term despite the periodic frustrations of middle management. But much of why I think about fixing our systems is that I want her to be able to ascend into leadership in a system that is fair and by merit. I don’t want anything handed to her. I remember at the end of her elementary school years, when my ex-28 week preemie shocked us by winning a scholarship for her citizenship and scholarship. And then she had been named Captain of Safety Patrol, top honor for her class, at graduation and handed a certificate by the Officer. I remember every morning she made sure I got her to school on time, and every time she took extra patrol shifts to earn extra merit points. Those accomplishments are only savored if they are earned if one is a moral and ethical person.
And this was her last evening, as we went for our evening walk with her puppy. She was dressed like she was going out to a non-profit meeting.