President’s Message: August 2014

AshtonThe Future of Psychology: What Skills Will Our Leaders Need?

By: Kathleen Ashton, PhD, OPA President

“We live in rapidly changing times,” many generations have claimed. Five hundred years ago Machiavelli noted, “Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” Although every generation feels like the world is changing quickly, the last few years have seen astounding changes in technology, health care and communication globally. These changes are likely to continue to escalate, in some areas wiping out entire professions as their services become obsolete. Our latest OPA Leadership Forum centered on a theme of “Leadership in a Time of Change.” Twenty five psychologists from around the state participated in this one day free program that OPA holds annually to help develop leadership skills in Ohio psychologists and identify future OPA leaders.

The event included a keynote address, “Time of Change” with Nancy Gordon Moore, PhD, MBA, Executive Director of Governance Affairs for the American Psychological Association. She discussed the unprecedented social, technological and biomedical changes that are forecast for the next 10 years, and the special leadership skills needed to recognize and capitalize on the opportunities at hand. She emphasized regularly scanning ahead to anticipate what dilemmas organizations will face in the future, and then figuring out how to turn that into an advantage.

Dr. Gordon Moore oversees APA’s Office of the President, Board of Directors, Council of Representatives, board and committee operations, elections, division services, travel office, meeting services and the annual convention. Her role includes oversight of the Good Governance Project.

She shared fascinating details about the amount of exponential change we are experiencing, especially in the technological realm, with our current smartphones computing faster than our laptops of a few years ago. Processing power is expected to continue to double every two years, meaning that if we say our current computers are X fast, in 10 years they will be 32X as fast as they are now! This type of growth has huge implications for how we communicate, advances in health care and increases in knowledge. She suggested that these technological shifts are shortening the span of generations to about six years: a 15 year old may not be in the same generation as a nine year old given how fast technology is moving! She emphasized several leadership skills for the future psychology leader including:

  • Curiosity
  • Risk taking
  • Learning the value of mistakes
  • Being motivated for change
  • Understanding there is rarely one “right” answer
  • Flexibility
  • Ability to apply skills with agility
  • Vision
  • Tolerating ambiguity

Her talk left me considering the opportunities these changes will present to OPA and Ohio psychologists. We also held a panel discussion with leaders from around the state to discuss the skills psychology leaders will need in the future. Panelists included Sandy Shullman, PhD, Ashley Leubrecht, MA, Mary Miller Lewis, PhD, and Rich Ashbrook, PhD. Each brought a unique perspective including from organizational development, graduate student, mid-career and later career points of view. They considered questions about their own leadership development, skills psychologists will need in this time of change, opportunities for psychologists and leadership challenges they’ve faced over time. Some of the skills they identified were:

  • Ability to delegate
  • Learning from mistakes
  • Asking for help in time
  • Authenticity
  • Ability to acquire new skills
  • Reaching out of your comfort zone
  • Openness to feedback
  • Ongoing learning

Many of these leaders noted that they “fell into leadership” roles, or didn’t see themselves initially as leaders but acquired skills over time. The importance of our early career psychologists, graduate student members and members from diverse groups was underscored by their unique skill sets, especially in emerging technologies.

We ended the day by thinking about how to further grow our leadership skills, and discussing opportunities to get involved in OPA leadership. If you’re inspired by the above discussion, consider getting involved in a role at OPA that will build on your leadership potential and help shape the future of psychology in Ohio, please contact me.

I would like to note that this is my last newsletter as OPA President, and I hope I have been able to facilitate communication about OPA initiatives and national trends in psychology. As we look to the future of OPA, I look forward to the leadership of our incoming president, Dr. Peg Mosher, who I think will have a powerful influence on continuing communication with our members and enhancing engagement in OPA. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow as a leader and represent Ohio psychologists! I would also like to thank the OPA Board and OPA staff for their unfailing support, openness to change and energy during the 2013-2014 year. It has truly been a pleasure to help lead OPA this year.