CEO Reflections – NHLC 2021: Adaptive leadership in complex times

June 25, 2021

Let me start this CEO reflection by thanking all of those who attended our first ever virtual national conference a few days ago. We realize that many of our members and health care leaders across the country have been working above and beyond in the pandemic and that time is a limited and precious resource. But we have also heard from you that opportunities such as the national conference are very much in need in terms of learning, community, and renewal. Thank you as well to all of our speakers, volunteers and sponsors. 

The first lesson from our conference this year came from Dr. Stephen Trzeciak who put forward a rigorous explanation, based on ample research and evidence, that compassion in its various forms does indeed lead to better outcomes for patients, their families and our communities. An important lesson for leaders is not only being compassionate themselves but creating the environment for team members and clinicians to exhibit compassion in everything they do. 

The Great Canadian Health Policy Dialogue, chaired by Globe & Mail health columnist André Picard, provided a timely platform to discuss national health priorities given the possibility of an upcoming federal election. A recurring theme was the striking balance between some remarkable rapid innovations and improvements, such as virtual care, and our repeated failure to learn from the past and be better prepared to deal with such a crisis, particularly in terms of jurisdictional coordination, PPE and taking care of all the members of our communities. 

Dr. Verna Yiu, CEO of Alberta Health Services, did an admirable job of chairing our panel on leading transformation in health care. When you consider the impending leadership gap across the continuum and across the country, the need to reflect the voice of youth in system transformation especially in matters of mental health, the urgent need for meaningful partnerships to drive improvements in indigenous health, and the need to achieve a safe relationship between leaders and employees, there is certainly a lot of work ahead of us. However, given that the panel was able to identify 4 clear areas of action, this should give us cause for optimism as well. 

Our dynamic closing session with Dr. Nick Bontis focused on how to accelerate collaboration, especially in the immediate post-pandemic world. This acceleration can be driven by 4 emerging forces; our collective re-engagement around socialization at work, the elimination of hard drives and proactive sharing of documents and knowledge, the active combination and recombination of different ideas, and knowing how to drive action and putting ideas into application. 
As Dr. Graham Dickson often reminds me, perhaps a good way of summarizing these various presentations and thoughts, is to use the LEADS framework.  For example: 

Lead self; practice compassion for yourself and others every day. 

Engage others; be aware of the 4 drivers of collaboration in the post-pandemic world. 

Achieve results; compassion at the team and organizational level is proven to generate better outcomes. 

Develop coalitions; coalitions and partnerships will be essential to address mental health and indigenous health priorities. 

Systems transformation; adopt the 4 calls for actions from the health transformation panel. 

Thank you all for attending the National Health Leadership Conference. We sincerely hope you learned and found a moment to re-energize your minds. We look forward to seeing you at the Canada West Health Leaders conference in the fall. Until then, take care.

Alain Doucet, MBA
President & CEO