Influential leaders share perspectives on International Women’s Day

March 8, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,
Top, L-R: Ishak, Kendrick, Larin. Bottom, L-R: Martin, Weinstein

Across Michigan Medicine, leaders bring a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds to their roles — enriching the organization and providing mentorship to others who aim to climb the career ladder.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Headlines recently caught up with a few of Michigan Medicine’s top women leaders, who assumed their current roles during the pandemic, to gain insight into their leadership styles, their role models and what advice they have for the next generation of leaders.

Here’s what they had to say!

Q: Who was your mentor or role model as you progressed through your career?

Julie Ishak, R.N., M.S.N., NP-BC, chief nursing officer, UMMG: I’ve had many amazing women that have shaped me both professionally and personally. Many nursing leaders who helped shape my career; an amazing group of lifelong friends who have impressive professional accomplishments and have supported me — but the one person who has impacted me the most was my mother, Nadia. She had a long and fulfilling nursing career and retired at the age of 71 after 50 plus years in the profession. 

Cathy Kendrick, M.S., B.S.N., CNML, NE-BC, R.N., chief nursing officer, UH/CVC: My younger brother Eddie is my mentor. He helps me navigate the business side of my leadership roles. My mom is and has always been my role model. I watched her raise six children, complete her GED at 60 and continue on to receive a divinity degree. She never stops learning. She raised me to believe that I can do anything but not everything. She and my brother helped me understand the value of team. 

Linda Larin, M.B.A., FACHE, chief operating officer, UH/CVC: I have been fortunate to have several different mentors and role models who have guided me personally and professionally throughout my career. Several individuals taught me about leading hospital operations, including information gathering, benchmarking, making good decisions with data, how best to communicate, and staying aligned with our mission and purpose — while staying focused on patients, their families and each other. These individuals have included a chief nursing executive, chief executive officer and chief human resources officer, along with countless friends and colleagues. I’ve learned so much from them and with that, have a responsibility and an eagerness to pay it forward and develop others as well.

Donna Martin, M.D., Ph.D., chair, Department of Pediatrics, medical geneticist and principal investigator of a basic science laboratory: I have had many mentors over the years and am indebted to their guidance. In many cases, mentorship came from supervisors, and in others from my coworkers and colleagues, whose ideas continue to shape my thoughts and actions. Michigan Medicine is a wonderful place to have a career in academic medicine.

Deb Weinstein, M.D., chief academic officer, executive vice dean for academic affairs: A few wonderful mentors and role models have impacted me in different ways and at different times. I had an amazing mid-career opportunity to do a fellowship through the American Council of Education with Larry Bacow as my mentor. Seeing him navigate the challenges of being a university president (then at Tufts, though he is now at Harvard) provided amazing lessons about leadership and thoughtful advice on a personal level. Senior women leaders have also been important to me as both role models, advisors and evens cheerleaders: Matina Horner, Debbie Powell and Clyda Rent. I am grateful not only for my relationships with them but for the ways in which each of them paved the way for women leaders to come.

Q: How would you briefly describe your leadership style? And how has that style helped you find success?

Ishak: When I am asked about my leadership style, I always answer with, ‘who can have just one style of leadership?’ I think to be successful in leadership, you have to lead as a human. One who respects and honors individual contributions and understands that every person you interact with is complicated.

Leadership styles should be different based on what is needed at that moment, but no style is effective without the trust of your team. The trust must be there or none of it works. Teams thrive in a culture of trust, human connection and a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished. 

Kendrick: I am transformational leader. This style supports my belief in the power of collective knowledge and the power of inclusion. I firmly believe that the hallmark of my success is that I share space with others. I’ve mentored and sponsored many of our current leaders. 

Larin: I believe it’s important to be a servant leader — serving those who need our support and assistance to serve others. This means helping break down barriers, securing resources and managing the enterprise to keep us solvent and balance resources in care of the whole enterprise. Staying focused on our mission and those we serve provides a road map to deliver the safest, highest quality, and most effective and efficient operations. Success will be determined by how well we cared for our patients, families and each other.

Martin: My leadership style is very collaborative. I rely on information gathering from multiple sources prior to making final decisions. I strive for consensus but am also willing to make decisions when there may be some minor disagreement about the best way forward.  

Weinstein: I tend to shun formality and try to de-emphasize hierarchy. I prefer direct dialogue and try to “lean in” to difficult conversations. I value a diversity of opinions, but also recognize that decisions need to be made even when consensus cannot be achieved. 

Q: What advice do you have for the next generation of women leaders?

Ishak: My advice would be to not think too much about how you will manage. I think as women, we tend to spend a lot of time wondering how we will do it all. Surround yourself with people that support you and just start doing. The rest will follow! 

Kendrick: My advice for the next generation of women leaders is to never forget what Shirley Chisholm said: “When you get to the table and don’t find a seat, bring a folding chair.” Never doubt that you belong and don’t ask for permission to take a seat — Show up and show out!

Larin: Help each other. Promote each other’s good ideas and accomplishments, sponsor one another, continue to develop those who will follow you. We have a responsibility to teach, develop, promote, support and coach each other. I learned so much from women leaders before me, my colleagues/peers, and just as much from those I have coached and mentored. There is much to learn from every generation. Listen to their experiences, what they have learned, what they know, how they see the world and then learn how you can provide guidance to support their journey. Most importantly, don’t make work your life’s No. 1 priority. Balancing family and work can be difficult at times, but it’s a blessing and a joy to have both — just keep family front and center.

Martin: I would encourage women of all ages to tap into their emotional intelligence and to bring that forward in discussions. Our colleagues benefit when we speak up, are open and honest, and when we point out how our actions and decisions affect others. We need to remember that silence is often mistaken for assent.    

Weinstein: Don’t let people tell you to “be realistic, you can’t do everything,” but recognize that you can’t do everything at the same time. Also, there are many things that you don’t have (or shouldn’t) do alone — accepting help often reflects strength, rather than weakness.