What qualities do you believe are essential for effective leadership in the health information profession?
The top qualities for leadership are compassion (supporting your team as fellow humans with their own needs, motivations, and backgrounds), humility (recognizing that your view is not the only valid one), and a strong sense of responsibility (keeping your word and following issues through to completion). These, of course, should be underpinned by solid organizational skills (otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to keep things aligned and be effective) and strong, two-way communication (so that you can listen and get your point across).
Can you describe a time when you had to demonstrate strong leadership skills in your workplace? What did you learn from this experience?
I haven’t had an opportunity for a leadership role in my current position. However, when I was working with a small animal rescue with a network of like-minded individuals, I had a leadership-focused role. Cooperation, communication, and organizational skills were required to ensure we had the animals in to see the vets, our fundraising efforts were successful and profitable, and that we had a diverse base of volunteers to address the diverse needs of the animals.
This experience taught me that small efforts of many people sharing the same goal can make a large impact when we were able to successfully relieve a hoarder of over 100 animals without the need for law or animal welfare enforcement. It also taught me that compassion can turn adversaries into valuable allies.
The hoarder had gotten into that situation from a place of compassion for neglected and unwanted animals but had gotten in over their head trying to do it all alone. Through a careful, two-way communication, we were able to align our passions to help the animals and relieve the burden of care on the hoarder by spreading that responsibility among a larger number of people.
The overall experience of being involved in rescue also taught me that though good leadership may be integral to long-term success, it is not enough on its own. You also need appropriate resources and support for the people involved to be able to maintain the system as a whole.
How has your volunteer experience with CHIMA prepared you for leadership opportunities?
It has strengthened my communication skills, renewed my optimism that change is possible within the health care system, and demonstrated that there are people who do not cling to the old way of doing things simply because they are familiar. My involvement with my CHIMA chapter and participation in the rebranding of CHIMA have demonstrated that I am more than just a cog and that my view and those of my peers are important and heard. My volunteer experience has also opened me up to more networking abilities than I would otherwise have with my limited physical ability to attend in-person events or in-office work. All of which help to strengthen and re-energize my dormant leadership skills. You cannot be a leader without the positive feedback of people and the environment around you.
Can you share any advice for individuals aspiring to leadership roles in the health information profession?
Patience and compassion for those around you will help you identify areas for improvement and will grease the wheels for change. Everyone has the potential to be an ally, and each person brings their own unique skills and perspectives to the table. A clear, two-way communication and an acceptance of your own weaknesses will make you and the work you do stronger and more sustainable in the end.
Most of all, though, leadership is not something you apply for but something you develop in your daily experiences. Whether you’re organizing a grocery list, meal planning for your family, managing various schedules for family or friends, or even actively listening to others, these experiences can lead you to be a more capable leader. If you draw from them and take the time to self-reflect, you can be a strong and effective leader.
About Raven Wilson
Raven Wilson, CHIM, completed a two-year course in Health Information Management through the Centre for Distance Education and successfully challenged the CHIM NCE in February 2016. They were hired as a coder for the QEII in Halifax in June 2016 and became a database coordinator in August 2018. Raven was a chapter committee member with CHIMA’s NSPE chapter from 2017 to 2022 and continues to volunteer with CHIMA where and when they can.