Future directions in leadership training of MCH professionals: cross-cutting MCH leadership competencies.
ABSTRACT Leadership in Maternal and Child Health (MCH) requires a repertoire of skills that transcend clinical or academic disciplines. This is especially true today as leaders in academic, government and private settings alike must respond to a rapidly changing health environment. To better prepare future MCH leaders we offer a framework of MCH leadership competencies based on the results of a conference held in Seattle in 2004, MCH Working Conference: The Future of Maternal and Child Health Leadership Training. The purpose of the conference was to articulate cross-cutting leadership skills, identify training experiences that foster leadership, and suggest methods to assess leadership training. Following on the work of the Seattle Conference, we sub-divide the 12 cross-cutting leadership competencies into 4 "core" and 8 "applied" competencies, and discuss this distinction. In addition we propose a competency in the knowledge of the history and context of MCH programs in the U.S. We also summarize the conference planning process, agenda, and work group assignments leading to these results. Based on this leadership competency framework we offer a definition of an MCH leader, and recommendations for leadership training, assessment, and faculty development. Taken as a set, these MCH leadership competencies point towards the newly-emerging construct of capability, the ability to adapt to new circumstances and generate new knowledge. "Capstone" projects can provide for both practice and assessment of leadership competencies. The competency-based approach to leadership that has emerged from this process has broad relevance for health, education, and social service sectors beyond the MCH context.