Let me offer my heartfelt congratulations to each and every one of you, for achieving all you’ve achieved in a year that none of us could have imagined. I’m willing to bet most of you started this journey with thoughts on how it would fit in your professional life and your career plans going forward. And, I’m also willing to bet, many if not most of those ideas and plans have been turned on their head, and yet you’ve responded with resiliency and creativity to rethink the ways forward and develop new and improved plans.. Your flexibility and adaptability in adjusting to all the curveballs that the pandemic has thrown — including ours — changing timelines and going virtual– has truly been exemplary.
I have been so impressed by each of you and your individual projects, but also by what you as a cohort have done creating this incredible bond during this Journey. Somehow, despite COVID distancing, you’ve forged relationships that go so far beyond touchpoints– co-authoring op-eds, reading books together, engaging in storytelling salons, arranging picnics in the park, doing vocal coaching exercises with your kids, and sharing deeply vulnerable parts of yourself. Shereen had the enviable role of observing the touchpoints and I can’t count how many times she came back to us overwhelmed with emotion. It’s your honesty and authenticity that made you into the group you are. I can also share that you set a very high bar — not just for future cohorts but for everyone around. While Geeta and I were thrilled to engage on one touchpoint — we were both pretty nervous before our discussion with you. It’s one thing to speak on a panel at an event with PowerPoint slides to guide you and quite another to bare your soul in an intimate environment like the touchpoints – as you have done all year.
We thank you for the energy, thought leadership, and honesty that you brought throughout the Journey. You helped expand our view of leadership and challenged and inspired every member of the WomenLift Health family to continually think about how we can improve all our work. Recently, we have been talking a lot about reimagining leadership, more specifically about leaving historical definitions behind and thinking hard about the values that truly define impactful leadership. Many of the same words keep popping up: diverse, inclusive, compassionate, collaborative, human. And it is gratifying to see this language is merging with the repertoire of other older leadership adjectives, such as bold, courageous, audacious, respected.
I am personally heartened and optimistic about the future of health leadership because I have seen all of these qualities – new and old– and so much more — in all of you.
The start of the Tokyo Olympics has made me think about the Olympic torch being handed around the world. The values of WomenLift Health are a torch that you carry forward. I know the flame will continue to burn and be passed on as you light the way as role models and examples — showing our global health community what leadership looks, acts, and sounds like.
We talk a lot about driving transformative change and how small actions can ripple out and influence countless others. Just as you were mentored and coached through this journey, you may mentor and coach those rising up after you, — and for those leaders, before you – who are already in positions of authority — you may be able to help them to understand and value inclusive and diverse styles of leadership. Because you are the glue that holds our networks together – and the engine that propels WomenLift Health forward.