Leadership starts with you

4 min read


When asked if I had interest in certificate programs through OpusVi and their partners, I of course responded with, “Yes!” How was I going to manage being enrolled in an academic program with a newborn on the way, the start of my doctoral program, and an already full plate of various other commitments? I wasn’t sure, but I’d figure it out.

I have been vocal in the past about how I don’t like to spend significant time, money, or effort on leadership-branded “stuff”. Leadership has often been used as a buzzword. As such, it has made people money by helping them to say the right things, make posters of their face accompanied by some inspirational quote, or write a book. The term servant-leadership gets distorted because it sounds good — and, I’ll admit, it was on a few of the resumes I shot out when getting ready to look for my first post-military job. Regardless of my feelings on seeing the term leadership everywhere, I jumped two-feet into this course offered by Duke CE in partnership with OpusVi.

The first weeks were about… me

Yep, me. Self is not often the first thing we think about when we listen to leadership podcasts, read leadership books, and scroll through motivational leadership quotes plastered throughout our LinkedIn feed. When we think of leadership, we think about how we can better lead teams and organizations to produce a result. We think about managing things and leading people. But what about the person leading? Have they thought of themselves first?

Leading authentically

OpusVi and Duke CE’s program starts off discussing authenticity, how to lead oneself by knowing who you are and who you want to be — staying true to yourself even as you grow and change. This was an incredibly important way to start the program because for every module afterwards, I thought about my own aspirations as I continued to explore how to lead others. Knowing yourself is important. Do I want to be a leader of a mission, cause, or team that I don’t truly align with? Am I chasing a title, or do I really believe in what I am doing? Do I enjoy my work? Healthcare leaders get generous compensation if they can produce results their organizations need, but what this program affirmed for me was that while that sounds great — and I do have bills that need to be paid — I’m a worker at heart. I really do love working, but I love it when I’m working on something I believe in and want to do. To do my best work, I need to be living my best self. After 12-weeks in this course, I better understand the kinds of roles, teams, and organizations I want to be a part of. That’s because I continued to know myself first.

Oh, and as I perused job boards through this self-discovery, not everything that caught my eye was management; there were definitely some individual contributor roles of real interest. You can still lead without managing direct reports.

Taking care of yourself to improve your leadership skills

Another topic that was covered in a multimedia unit with videos, interactive visuals, and discussion topics was energy. I was reminded of my China Lake days where I was in much better shape, eating right, and running “B Mountain” every Saturday morning. This course reminded me of my current reality: I need that kind of energy now as I am much busier. Notice how this is still about me — because for me to lead improvements in effectiveness, impact, and positive energy in organizations, I must take care of myself. It isn't selfish — it's reality.

A flexible learning experience

The remaining modules build upon one another to create a very cohesive and interesting program. The learning system is very easy to navigate, and the assignments are enough to get you thinking, but not enough to drive you mad with responsibility — even if you are taking doctoral classes, sleeping “okay” with a 2 .a.m-gassy baby a few feet away in the bassinet, evaluating graduate curriculum, building websites… you get the picture. Working professionals and busy parents can do this, too — so if you are a “not-terribly-busy professional” and don’t have children yet, definitely link up with the folks at OpusVi to see what they are up to.

The Duke CE certificate program in Healthcare Leadership has great value in a world where we plaster “leadership” on anything to make a buck. If you decide to enroll, you will get out of it what you put into it, you know… like most things requiring personal effort and introspection.

Healthcare Leadership

Online Certificate

Mini-MBA in Healthcare

Online Certificate

Nurse Leadership

Online Certificate

Ryan Zieno, MPH


Ryan Zieno, MPH


Ryan Zieno, MPH

Ryan Zieno, MPH is a healthcare operations manager and education enthusiast who approaches work through the lens of putting people over everything. He loves using his public health mindset in the private sector to align healthy communities and prosperous business outcomes. He is a member of the Advancement League and is pursuing a Doctorate in Education with a focus on Learning and Organizational Change. Ryan believes the intersection of health and education is his career "home", and is excited to see what he can do to help colleagues and neighbors. He currently resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and two children, but misses the lakes and mountain greenery of the Adirondacks.