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Building leadership capacity

Inaugural Building Leadership @ Queen's program supports the university’s commitment to EDII and the new strategic framework that articulates the value of inclusion.

Queen’s University recently introduced a new leadership development program for faculty and senior administration members.

Building Leadership Capacity @ Queen’s, facilitated by Human Resources Learning and Development and designed to support the new academic leadership development framework, is an innovative training program aimed at defining and expanding leadership capacity at the university while also providing a diverse skillset for current and future leaders.

The program is offered in two streams – one for newly-tenured faculty and the other for senior administrators – with sessions delivered on a monthly basis. Each session provides leadership learning opportunities on topics such as emotional intelligence, equity, diversity, inclusivity and Indigeneity, team building and collaboration, strategic thinking, resilience and agility, and much more. The pilot program started in December and will conclude in June.

“This inaugural program supports the university’s commitment to EDII and the new strategic framework that articulates the value of inclusion at all levels of the institution,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane. “The purpose of Building Leadership Capacity @ Queen’s is to create more opportunities for a diverse array of members of the academy and managers to take on senior leadership roles. This is essential if we are to succeed in our bold designs for the future.”

Among the overall goals of the program is ensuring an engaged, competent leadership pool for Queen’s while also creating a psychologically safe culture where leadership is celebrated and supported.

Self-awareness and an openness to lifelong learning is essential to leadership, points out Steve Millan, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Resources).

“This program offers faculty members and staff an opportunity to share their expertise and add to their leadership skillset,” he says. “The development and delivery of Building Leadership Capacity @ Queen’s will certainly benefit the university community as it continues to take on new challenges.”

Preparing for the next step

Tandy Thomas arrived at Queen’s as a faculty member of the Smith School of Business in 2009 and received full tenure in 2019. As an associate professor, Dr. Thomas’ responsibilities have grown to include more leadership as well as mentoring roles. She saw the program as a great opportunity to help her grow into this new phase of her career, and strengthen and broaden the skills that she needs as she moves ahead.

“I’ve found the program to be tremendously useful. Each of the sessions has been quite different, in terms of a different aspect of leadership,” she says. “I think I can safely say that I’ve walked away from every session with a new perspective on something and a takeaway that could be immediately applicable to how I approach my work and the leadership and coaching roles that I now have with my students. It has been tremendously helpful. The sessions provide both a broader perspective on leadership and also very specific action items that we can do now to be better leaders immediately.”

Dr. Thomas is responsible for supervising and mentoring doctoral students, many of whom will go on to become academic leaders within their communities. She adds that this role is incredibly difficult and one that academics often are not trained for. She has found that the skills and information she is gaining through the leadership program are instantly applicable and make her a better mentor.

“Most people raise doctoral students the way they were raised but those models aren’t necessarily transferable to the range of students that we are seeing,” she says. “So the skills that I am gaining from the leadership sessions help me think through broader leadership roles and also help me think about how can I best serve my students, bring out the best in them, because my students aren’t always going to be like me. I need to have a broad skillset so I can effectively coach a diversity of students.”

As head of Information Services for Queen’s University Library, Nathalie Soini sees the Building Leadership Capacity @ Queen’s program as a great opportunity to develop new leadership and management skills and for participants to see themselves in a different light.

Already she has been able to apply this new perspective, creating a more collaborative environment within her team.

“I have a fairly big staff and I can apply what I’ve learned as a manager and also as someone who is being managed,” she explains. “I think there are two aspects to it. I have been using some of what we have learned already.”

Another overall goal of the program, and a key component of all Human Resources courses, is increasing cross-disciplinary collaboration and professional networks. Despite being a large workplace with abroad range of specializations and areas of study, there can be limited opportunities for working with peers from other departments. This isolation has been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The new connections (through the program) are interesting. Normally I would not meet people in medicine or other parts of the university and I think we forget that there are other people at the university having similar issues,” she says about the discussions fostered by the program. “That’s been really refreshing and nice to hear. We are all dealing with the pandemic, some more than others depending on the department, but we are definitely working towards the same goal, and that’s to create a healthy vibrant workspace where people are happy to come in and do their jobs.”

Visit the Human Resources website to learn more about the Learning and Development opportunities for all Queen’s employees.