By: Dr. Shirley O’Brien
“The point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, and to use yourself completely – all your gifts, skills and energies – to make your vision manifest. You must withhold nothing. You must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and to enjoy the process of becoming.” Bennis, 2003
Occupational therapy (OT) attracts individuals that possess natural leadership potential demonstrated in their daily roles, habits and engagement with others. Regardless of the setting, occupational therapists are optimizers, bringing leadership skills to life through their interactions, structuring of the environment and commitment to helping individuals participate in daily life. Such is the case in my professional career.
As I reflect upon my journey as an occupational therapist, advocacy and service are paramount. Serving state and national OT associations as a member, committee chair, representative and president has enriched my engagement as an occupational therapy practitioner, educator and researcher. Through both state and national opportunities, I have refined my gifts and skills to serve various stakeholders, and as a result have been energized. I am humbled to be named as a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and a recipient of the Lindy Boggs Award for Political Activity by AOTA for my activism in the legislative and policy making environments. School based occupational therapy, sensory processing and community-based services are passions of mine, reflecting my ever-developing scholarship agenda in collaboration with colleagues and students. I credit membership and participation in state and national OT associations for providing the spark, continually igniting my vision and providing resources to me as an occupational therapist to facilitate ongoing stewardship in various communities.
We all have skills to polish, which are a part of our character. As John Wooden, former UCLA Basketball Coach once stated “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” I challenge each of you to consider joining and shaping your state and national occupational therapy associations. We have much to do as we enjoy the process of becoming the best occupational therapists that we can be and contributing our professional knowledge and personal talents to our various communities!