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Center for Enlightened Leadership

Reflections on Being the Best for the World: A Conversation with Joan Vitello

  Bea Mah Holland

Bea Mah Holland
Founding Partner and Executive Coach

I knew that many victims of the Boston Marathon bombing were being cared for at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and that Associate Chief Nurse Joan Vitello was actively involved through her oversight of the Burn Trauma Unit. The following is Dr. Vitello’s response to my question as to how she sustains her higher authentic self during such times of deep trauma for her patients, their families, the entire range of medical staff, her leadership team, and, in this case, external dignitaries and security personnel. The following is what I learned from Joan.

My higher self is reflected in my authenticity. The way I define “authenticity” is who I am when no one is looking. I see my authentic self as a person guided by my values. I refer to these values as my four C’s: Caring, Commitment, Collaboration, and Communication.

The way I live these values in both my personal and professional lives is Caring for myself as well as for others, caring for the whole person and wanting to get to know the whole person. The way I embrace Commitment is to keep my promises and, if life gets in the way, to go back to the person and tell them why I didn’t keep that promise—so there is a feedback loop.

The way I live Collaboration and express it in my professional work life is by always asking myself, “Who needs to be in the room?” and “Who needs to be involved in this conversation?” For the fourth one, Communication, I try to embrace and embody this by an open heart and timely communication.

So by living these values (and after receiving several awards), I have made a conscious effort to shift from being the best in the world to being the best for the world, from being egocentric to being service-centric.

I was blessed to have the opportunity to serve during the Boston Marathon tragedy. When the opportunities were presented, I engaged in meaningful conversation with patients, families, staff, and my own leadership team. These conversations were especially memorable to me because they embraced what Dr. Barbara Fredrickson in her book Love 2.0 calls “moments of positivity resonance.” These moments allowed me to share my caring, my commitment, my collaboration, and my communication. These terribly powerful moments validated for me that I can be the best for the world.

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