December 15, 2021
Holly Roberts 0:22
Picture a CEO. What do you see? Probably an older white man, tall, maybe named John. You’d be right about the last one. In 2018, there were more US companies with CEOs named John than companies that had female CEOs. That’s a disappointing statistic and C suites should be more diverse. Thankfully, we know that there are some incredible women in the healthcare space breaking that glass ceiling. I’m Holly Roberts, Think Medium’s producer, and today, I’m excited to bring you a special edition of Her Story, where we showcase some of these female leaders, looking to their insights and advice. We will hear from Renee DeSilva, CEO of the Health Management Academy, Kelsey Mellard, the founder and CEO of Sitka, and Jane Chao, co-founder and CEO of Ceribell to begin, let’s listen to Renee DeSilva’s advice for new CEOs.
Renee DeSilva 1:07
There’s probably two things I would distill it down to, is, really take the time to understand the business because, even though I felt like the diligence process that I went through, I felt like I was in a mutual evaluation, I think the founders and our strategic partner, Welsh Carson, did a beautiful job making everything as plain as possible, but you still have to learn. So really, just, no job is too small, really get in deep, understand the nuances that you only know over time, would be the first thing. The second thing would be just really thinking through the team that you put in place and suspending ego in some ways, you know, just figuring out, again, if you’re grounded by “member at the center”, make sure that that really dictates how you spend your time. And then I do think that a big part of it, and maybe there’s a way to short circuit it, but it does come down to just being comfortable in your own shoes and being unabashed in your willingness to just do what you think is right answer, because that’s ultimately what you were hired for. So you’ve got to learn the business, you’ve got to have the right team, you’ve got to get input, but you have to be comfortable being in those shoes. And sometimes there can be a little bit of a self talk like a, you know, track in your head that can undermine that if you’re not careful, or at least that’s true for me. And I would say anyone that I’ve ever worked with would not say that I suffer from confidence or that but there’s something to the role and the title that you just need to be mindful of as you settle in, and you just sort of continue to be you. That’s why you were hired. That’s why I was picked for the role.
Holly Roberts 2:34
Women in leadership positions can sometimes experience imposter syndrome. If you feel that doubt creeping in remember that you were chosen for that role because of who you are. Feeling uncertainty doesn’t make you an imposter, it makes you human. Next, we will hear from Kelsey Mellard and how she thinks about being a female CEO.
Kelsey Mellard 2:53
The expectations of female leaders are changing. But also it’s something that I have had to learn to become more aware of, because of the way that it can be perceived at times. So I think that I’m coming across as strong and supportive and, you know, driving an agenda and moving quickly and learning. And that’s not always the perception that people would have, in large part because of my gender. And that’s been a big challenge for me to actually comprehend. Because again, it’s something that I haven’t really let land on me in previous positions, because it’s ,like, I’m just here to do a job, it doesn’t matter what my gender is or isn’t and how I identify. And that’s not true. And people make it matter. And because that’s their perception, then therefore, as a leader, you have to lean in and understand that in order to navigate it and actually make it, frankly, like part of your superpower. And how to actually take that to say, “great, I’m going to take this and I’m going to learn from it and test different strategies on not how to be the leader that people expect me to be because I’m female. But really, how do you continue to get a team to perform and be a female leader, and use the skills and abilities that I have to do that effectively”.
Holly Roberts 4:12
Other people’s perceptions of what female leaders should be and act like can have a real impact. However, that doesn’t mean those perceptions should define us. There are many ways to be a leader and not every style works for each person. To elaborate we turn to Jane Chao.
Jane Chao, Ph.D. 4:29
I used to think, as the CEO, as a leader, you have to be this very charismatic person you get on stage you can give these super inspiring motivational talks just on spot, right? Because of that I always thought I can never be an inspiring leader. I thought I can just be a manager and manage things because I solve problems. And over the years I realized there are different leaders. The bigger my responsibility becomes, the more I realize being a leader is so much of a reflection of being who we are. When I’m positive and supportive as a person, it will come out as a leadership that’s positive and supportive. And so I start to, A, realize, I don’t have to be this charismatic person and give motivational speeches, I can build the leadership based on who I am. So what is my strengths, right? My strength is, I can really create a clear vision. It comes relatively easy for me, but might be very hard for other people to see. I’m really passionate about that vision. I can motivate people and help people to see that vision. And I can see a pass to get there. So that’s how I lead my team. And also the other part, I really value everyone, that I want everyone to succeed. And it’s not about me, it’s about we all get to that goal together. And that makes the leader because that’s who I am. So I think that’s probably the biggest myth I overcome over the years.
Holly Roberts 6:11
Movies and shows make us think that leadership is about motivational speeches. But when distilled leadership is a reflection of our values, and who we are as individuals, leadership comes in many forms and the style of leadership needed can differ between companies, industries, and time. Every leader is unique. There is no blueprint, checklist, or cookie cutter approach to leadership. We each define and create our own leadership style. We hope you’ll join us for season three of Her Story to hear from more women and how they became the leaders they are today. We’ll see you on January 5.