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Embracing Leadership Without Authority

Kevin Frick is one of our inspiring returning authors at OutGrowth, and this month, he shares his reflections on Leading Without Authority. Enjoy our Q+A with Kevin below, and check out his spotlight feature in this month's issue of En Root here!

This month's theme is all about leadership without authority. Tell us about how you interpret this theme, and how it has played a role in your personal or professional life.

I have struggled with how to use authority. As far back as being in high school and being captain of the cross country team -- I just wanted to lead stretches and get my teammates to cooperate. I was president of a student organization as an undergrad, but I mostly wanted a collaborative leadership process. Even when I had authority in an administrative role for more than eight years, I tried to use the authority that I was given as little as possible and have as much collaboration as possible. In trying to create a positive collaborative environment, I actually now see that I underutilized the authority. In some cases, authority is actually a good thing to use. My biggest lesson--in trying to be inclusive and collaborative - don't give away so much authority that my leadership becomes ineffective.

At OutGrowth, we believe in designing the space and time to reimagine the path forward. How do you believe embracing leadership without authority can impact our perspective and influence our future decisions?

Embracing leadership without authority has given me the choice of how to engage, how much to engage, and how long to engage. Authority comes with accountability. There are also ways that leadership without authority includes responsibility and accountability. Leadership without authority gives me a chance to disengage and reassess in ways that are less high stakes in terms of moving on than when I am in a position with authority that is given from elsewhere in the organization. I have come to enjoy and appreciate leadership without authority because it allows for a very different growth path that is more organic and less predictable and has fewer societal expectations. I feel like there is more opportunity for me to carve my own paths and make my own outcomes.

What is one hard lesson you learned in this past year that contributed to your growth?

My hardest lesson in the past year is that despite the many lessons I've learned since my last time as faculty without an administrative role, I am at risk of making the same mistakes of over-commitment that I made a decade ago. I have to be just as cautious about over-commitment now as I was when I was 42--maybe even more as I have to be more aware of not burning out and not putting my health at risk.

What is one competency or skill you hope to develop in 2023?

I just gave my first talk on unconscious bias. I hope to give more talks in the DEIB space in 2023 and to continue to develop as an "anti--inequity advocate."

What inspires you?

The opportunity to write poems to share with those for whom I care. I write a poem after almost every time I go running with a partner. It gives me a chance to share and create something that I will remember and that my running partner will remember. It has become almost like journaling through poetry in a way that creates a shared experience with the friend with whom I ran.

At OutGrowth, we believe in preparing the next generation of leaders. What is one resource (book, podcast, article, anything!) you'd recommend to those looking to carve out the time for growth in the next year?

I have developed a new habit this year at the encouragement of a former running coach. I have followed her social media ever since she coached me to my personal best in the marathon in Philadelphia in 2014 and my first ultra marathon in 2016. She suggested that we write down the best thing of the week in addition to whatever other journaling we may do. Writing down the best thing of the week has been an excellent experience for me. I'd recommend trying it. It is a simple form of journaling that allows me to look at what matters at different times and in different ways and then to think about the way that the accomplishments of each week fit together. For about half the year, I've also chosen to write down my small explorations of gender expression, for example, hair length and style, earring style, and legging style.

What's next? What are you excited about in the coming year?

I get to give my first poetry reading. On top of that, I plan to continue to write and also to work on editing my mentoring memoir.

Kevin Frick is a professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School with joint appointments at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the School of Medicine. He teaches courses related to health economics and business ethics. His research is primarily on cost-effectiveness. He has a highly- empathetic mentoring style that he applies professionally and in the communities of which he is a part. When not in a professional role, he is a father of three, a runner, a poet, a baker of bread, and a Baltimore booster after living half his life in the city.


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