Background: Leadership has been described as the organization of people to achieve a goal, which often entails characteristics such as charisma and intelligence. While the Trait Model in leadership is often used to define characteristics of effective leaders, little is known about how many public health leaders transcend these leadership qualities and values in making decisions, particularly in situations of great uncertainty.

Objective: To understand values of leaders in the decision-making process, using informational interviews at the Harvard School of Public Health as well as collections from the Harvard Leadership Studio, Voices from the Field Programming, and other symposiums.

Methods: I approached public health pioneers and asked them what personal characteristics they considered to be essential for effective leadership, how they defined personal success, and what advice they would share with the next generation of public health leaders. The quotations expressed were extracted from informational interviews and recorded videos. Opinions expressed were paraphrased from the viewpoint of the writer.

Results: The interviews and programming identified values that centered on taking risks, having a vision, open mindedness, knowing where one’s moral compass lies, and willingness to encounter resistance to change.

Conclusion: This report represents a reflective and qualitative approach to understanding how value-based characteristics influenced the decision-making of successful leaders as well as provides advice to the next generation of public health leaders. Further analysis could include reflections on successful leadership training models and evaluating performance in leadership.

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