Background: The foundational public health services model V1.0, developed in response to the Institute of Medicine report For the Public’s Health: Investing in a Healthier Future identified important capabilities for leading local health departments (LHDs). The recommended capabilities include the organizational competencies of leadership and governance, which are described as consensus building among internal and external stakeholders. Leadership through consensus building is the main characteristic of Democratic Leadership. This style of leadership works best within the context of a competent team. Not much is known about the competency structure of LHD leadership teams. The objectives of this study characterize the competency structure of leadership teams in LHDs and identify the relevance of existing competencies for the practice of leadership in public health.

Materials and methods: The study used a cross-sectional study design. Utilizing the workforce taxonomy six management and leadership occupation titles were used as job categories. The competencies were selected from the leadership and management domain of public health competencies for the Tier -3, leadership level. Study participants were asked to rank on a Likert scale of 1–10 the relevance of each competency to their current job category, with a rank of 1 being least important and a rank of 10 being most important. The instrument was administered in person.

Data: Data were collected in 2016 from 50 public health professionals serving in leadership and management positions in a convenience sample of three LHDS.

Results: The competency of most relevance to the highest executive function category was that of “interaction with interrelated systems.” For sub-agency level officers the competency of most relevance was “advocating for the role of public health.” The competency of most relevance to Program Directors/Managers or Administrators was “ensuring continuous quality improvement.” The variation between competencies by job category suggests there are distinct underlying relationships between the competencies by job category.

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Published in Frontiers in Public Health, v. 5, 272, p. 1-6.

© 2017 Jadhav, Holsinger, Anderson and Homant.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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The study is funded by the Ferris State University College of Health Professions Faculty Research Grant.