The path to being a leader is not linear, nor is it always obvious.
Take Sid Stacey’s journey, for example.
Now the Administrative Director with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University, Stacey spent the summer following his undergraduate studies learning how to take care of bees. He later got his pilot’s license and even spent a few years in the telecom industry.
As many professionals do throughout their career, Stacey tried on many different hats until he faced a fork in the road. Eventually, he took his skills in seeing the big picture and caring for others to pursue a graduate degree in health administration at the University of Toronto.
Stacey shared these highlights of his leadership journey on August 19, alongside a panel of Canadian leaders. Special Advisor to the Dean at McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business John Rankin and Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement’s Jennifer Verma also recounted some of their key leadership experiences.
This panel kicked off the Health Leadership Academy’s Emerging Health Leaders (EHL) program, a two-week intensive workshop for a group of interdisciplinary students who want to develop their leadership talents and deliver impact in the health care landscape.
Greg McQueen Ph. D. Faculty, EHL program, the Directors College and Senior Associate Niagara Leadership Institute, moderated the discussion, inviting insightful questions from the student group along the way. While the panelists shared countless nuggets of wisdom, here are a few key takeaways that stand to benefit leaders of any age.
Identify Your Role Models
Rankin noted that many of us start as leaders when we are young, and look to those closest to us to shape our desire to lead. As he shared with the audience, the person to spark his interest in leadership was his father.
“My dad never went higher in the hierarchy than first-line supervisor, with about 40 people reporting to him,” Rankin said.
“I watched him agonize over performance appraisals. He always talked about his subordinates respectfully. He didn’t put them down. I saw my dad and I thought: I want to be like that.”
The takeaway for Rankin was that a leader is someone who takes care of his followers. Since the early influence of his father, Rankin has had many other mentors throughout his time in the private and public sectors.
He was the Vice-President Human Resources, Northern Telecom; Senior Vice-President Dealer Relations, Canadian Tire Corporation; and President of George Brown College in Toronto. Currently, Rankin shares his varied experiences as a faculty member of the EHL program.
Broaden Your Mindset
Jennifer Verma, Senior Director, Corporate Strategy & Development with the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI), started her career with interdisciplinary interests.
“I’ve always respected people who can help make what’s important interesting and a pleasure to learn about,” she explained to the students. “I was interested in communicating science.”
Armed with an undergraduate degree in journalism and biology, and a Masters of Science in Medicine, Verma says her concept of health has changed over the course of her leadership journey.
“I’ve gone from thinking about health in a specific [scientific] sense of the term to a much broader interpretation of health and thinking about patients, families and communities first,” Verma said.
While Verma spends her days leading large-scale health system improvement partnerships, she is also the author of a forthcoming book about the collapse of Newfoundland and Labrador’s cod fishery. This subject might seem removed from her position with CFHI, but Verma sees it as a health story.
“It might not sound like it’s a book about health, but it very much is,” Verma explained.
The cod-fishing moratorium still exists today, and it ended a career that was in my family for years. What has that meant for the health of the economy, the people, and the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador?”
Put on the Patient Care Lens
Stacey opened the panel by sharing his early career path, which highlighted the benefits of being open to new opportunities. Following his short stint as a beekeeper, Stacey has held a variety of senior administrative roles in academic health circles.
Another piece of wisdom he shared was to ask colleagues to put on “the patient care lens” together.
“If you ask your colleagues to put on the patient care lens with you and look at what’s in the best interests of a patient – it’s often a strong team dynamic,” Stacey shared.
“If you look at high performing organizations in teams, you’ll find that housekeepers in hospitals are involved in the patient experience. They have an important role in terms of the information they relay onto the nursing team.
“Putting on the ‘patient care lens’ can help shift the conversation from a turf discussion to a patient-centered one.”