Julie Radico, Psy.D., ABPP (Pronouns: She/Her)
Board Certified in Clinical Health Psychology
Department of Family & Community Medicine
Penn State Health
Individuals pursuing and/or newly involved in leadership may face a steep learning curve. There are many opportunities for leadership as an ECP, but also many questions (e.g. “am I qualified,” “should I apply,” “when should I speak up in meetings”). I hope to demystify a few of the following questions and hopefully encourage you to consider involvement in leadership.
Prior to getting involved in leadership at my state and national associations, I wondered if I had the qualifications to be a competitive candidate for these roles. Over time, I’ve realized that even just the process of applying for leadership positions can be a good learning experience. Completing applications, writing letters of interest, and regularly updating my CV has provided me with the opportunity to reflect on my experiences and strengths.
My concerns about my fit as a leadership candidate were amplified by the difficulty of knowing the nuanced considerations of the group reviewing my application. For example, they may have been looking for individuals who were newer to leadership in an effort to bring in new voices. They also may have been looking to add diverse voices to the group. These priorities are sometimes stated in the call for candidates, but not always. I have found that rather than immediately discounting what I felt I had to offer, it was better to express what I could bring to the group and allow them to decide goodness of fit. Accordingly, I was mindful to pursue opportunities that seemed to be a good match for my skillset and career stage (e.g., ECP slates on boards and committees).
Furthermore, it has been helpful to recognize that even if I did not get selected for a chosen position the first time, my persistence in running a second time often led to success. Additionally, I’ve learned that associations often look for new leaders outside of active recruitment periods. Presidential initiatives and committee work often result in needing to engage those who are interested in serving in leadership positions but not yet active. Having applied for positions, even when not selected, resulted in those in leadership recognizing my interest and reaching out when new opportunities arose.
Once you have secured a leadership position, it may feel daunting to speak up in forums with other leaders. I have heard statements like, “wait your turn” in relation to helping guide the direction of a committee/board, as well as “that’s how it’s always been done” when brainstorming new approaches. Do not let these statements deter you from speaking up. While it has been important to recognize my anxiety in such scenarios, I do not let it stop me from speaking up and asking questions. From my experience, saying things kindly while explaining the intent behind a statement or question goes a long way towards building constructive relationships and moving initiatives forward. However, it has also been important to recognize that ideas often need to be discussed, refined, and augmented. Good leadership involves setting much of your ego aside and making the best decisions for the groups you serve.
Lifting Up Those Around You
A highly rewarding and joyful part of leadership involvement for me has been the opportunities for mentoring, supporting, and sponsoring others. I strive to be a transformational leader who brings others along with them and amplifies their voices. Getting too caught up in maintaining power can narrow your perspective as a leader. While it can be intimidating, it is critically important to call out when other leaders are discounted or discredited. My confidence in doing this has grown over time, and hopefully demonstrated to others that I am willing to be an advocate and colleague who they can go to for support.
Overall, I have found that a fulfilling style of leadership includes a large amount of generativity toward those coming along with me and coming up behind me. Part of being a psychologist is staying a lifelong learner and building up networks. The perspectives of others have been invaluable in my own developing maturity as a leader involved in service to psychology. When serving in a leadership role, in an effort to increase the comfort and engagement of all members, I remind everyone, no matter what stage of their career, that they and their thoughts are valid.
In sum, I hope all ECPs understand as they pursue leadership:
- You have insight and experience to share.
- Speak up.
- Bring others along.
- Talk Back to Imposter-Phenomenon-Self-Discounting-Thoughts.
- Reach out.
- You are valid.
I am fully invested in engaging with and supporting aspiring leaders. If you have questions related to this article or getting involved in local, state, or national leadership, please do not hesitate to reach out. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Radico, PsyD ABPP is in her ninth year as an ECP. She serves in active leadership roles in the Society for Health Psychology, the American Psychological Association, the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the American Academy of Clinical Health Psychology, and Penn State Health where she works in the department of Family and Community Medicine.