Learning about high impact leadership in Washington, DC: Ruby Corado and Regina Holliday in national media

As I prepare to head back for my final session of the Kaiser Permanente Executive Leadership Program at the Harvard School of Business (@HBSExecEd), I am paying extra attention to examples of great leadership. Especially those of leaders who have the highest impact with the most minimal resources – that’s special to me (and many other humans).

Regina Holliday (@ReginaHolliday) is featured in USAToday (@USAToday) in this piece: Patient advocate fights for access to digital records through her art

Ruby Corado (@CasaRubyDC) is featured on the PBS NewsHour: LGBT youth home welcomes population accustomed to insecurity, Video at Giving transgender youth a safe haven from the streets

As well as on NPR: Casa Ruby Is A ‘Chosen Family’ For Trans People Who Need A Home : NPR

First of all, wow. They both are achieving national recognition for their work, in the same week.

I’ve known regina for 6 years, Ruby for 2, and from watching them lead, I think this has been inevitable.

There are so many similarities in their leadership. Their impact is far far greater than a person in society is supposed to have, much less a person in society representing a vulnerable population (in Regina’s case, patients in health care, in Ruby’s case, the LGBTQ community).

Regina’s leadership was shaped by the hospice (and hospital) experience of her husband Fred, where there was little love for coordination of care or provision of information to patients and families.

Ruby’s leadership was also shaped by work in a hospice, where as she says, “all they had to give was love.” Ruby worked at the Gift of Peace charitable residence, in Washington, DC operated by the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa. Gift of Peace was protested against by its neighbors because they believed at the time that HIV could be spread through the air. (See: Photo Friday: Our generation is changing everything for people who are LGB and Transgender | Ted Eytan, MD for more of the story)

Ruby told us before she opened the LGBT Youth and Adult houses in Washington, DC that she was going to be successful because “I get stuff done.” And she did. Prior to her work, LGBTQ youth who were not accepted by their families/society had to be homeless in Washington, DC, as they were either rejected by or harassed in shelters.

Regina told us that she will not stop until every patient has the ability to see their own health information, and she’s not going to, 330 walking jackets later.

I have noticed that they are both on a mission, but in a way that is inclusive of everyone. They can engage in a conversation of one or a room of 1,000. They can command the attention of a community, and as we’ve seen this week, a nation. You can’t say no to either of them (or at least you shouldn’t), and at the same time, they are inclusive, kind, and open. When they write about their victories, they generate excitement, about their frustrations, they generate sympathy. How do they do it? It’s really worth listening to their stories and learning more – see for yourself.

Oh, and they both happen to be women.

There may be something to this kind of leadership that draws so many people to it. I was able to watch Ruby receive a community-wide honor for her work at the Thurgood Marshall Center in Washington, DC last week. I’ll post on that separately, but that’s a place where leaders also walked out onto a street and into a community that didn’t accept them, and look what they accomplished.

There’s one thing I don’t agree with in the NPR story about Ruby which is this opening statement, and the USA Today opener about Regina also makes me scratch my head a little:

This story is part of an occasional series about individuals who don’t have much money or power but do have a big impact on their communities. (NPR)

Despite her grief and background, Holliday has emerged as a colorful patient advocate with a command of electronic health record rules to rival any button-downed lobbyist. (USAToday)

I think Ruby and Regina have immense power beyond financial resources and colorfulness, and of the kind that society wants leaders to have and express. Like I said, much to learn.

I came to Washington, DC hoping to learn from the most transformational leaders of our time, in the most diverse places, where people believe everything is possible, because it is. As Ruby says, dreams do come true 🙂 .

Ted Eytan, MD