Core Concepts

Public Health Leadership 1: Core Concepts


In this set of 4 columns written from 2010-2014, we share a number of general insights and perspectives on the practice of public health leadership and management. In doing so, we offer a set of guiding principles, best practices and core attributes which represent a conceptual foundation on which other columns in the Management Moment series were built. We emphasize the importance of leaders focusing on vision, strategy, operations and tactics as they transition from the process of leadership into the day-to-day management of public programs. With these concepts in mind, the evolution and development of leaders is discussed by focusing on 4 stages in the evolution of a leader: the emerging leader (one who is in training to become a leader), the early leader (one who is in a first or early job), the established leader (one who is in midcareer with growing responsibilities), and the emeritus leader (one who offers the wisdom of experience to those in earlier stages of the leadership journey). Finally, our column on leading with authenticity in challenging times seems as relevant today as when the article was written some 10 years ago!

  1. Leadership and Management — Guiding Principles, Best Practices, and Core Attributes (2014)
  2. Practicing Management and Leadership — Vision, Strategy, Operations, Tactics (2010)
  3. The Evolution of a Leader (2011)
  4. Leading with Authenticity in Challenging Times (2011)

Leader Interview: Dr. Bill Foege

When we think of public health leaders who most exemplify the core concepts captured in these columns, we turn to Dr. Bill Foege, former CDC director, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Freedom, and chief architect of the Global Smallpox Eradication Program. In this interview, conducted at the Task Force for Global Health in 2018, Dr. Foege (a true emeritus leader) shares his wisdom and insights regarding the practice of public health leadership including:

  • Early life experiences which shaped his approach to leadership practice
  • Building a leadership team and trusting those on the team
  • Developing leadership skills including the necessity of seeking out mentors
  • Developing a life philosophy
  • Learning from mistakes

For each topic, Dr. Foege provides inspiring stories and reflections based on decades of leadership experience at the highest levels of public health practice. These memorable words of wisdom can serve as guideposts for aspiring leaders and for those further along the path. We highly recommend that you spend a few minutes with Dr. Foege. We expect that you will enjoy the experience and come away inspired for your journey as a public health leader.