|Contributed by Sally Belles, MBA-HCM, RDN, CDE|
Women leaders in healthcare are on the rise thanks to ever increasing opportunities and the recognition of the importance of building a diverse leadership team. The makeup of diverse leadership in healthcare includes women in C-suite positions. These women function in all sectors of the healthcare system. They lead change, drive quality improvement in the delivery of healthcare, expand community outreach, and serve as role models for would-be women leaders.
We wanted to hear from our local women executives and their unique path to leadership and asked Sheila Beckham, CEO of Waikiki Health to share her story.
Shiela Beckham, Chief Executive Officer, Waikiki Health
Q. Describe for us your unique path to leadership.
A. Though my background is clinical, I have always been in management positions. My first job at 23 years of age as a Clinical Nutritionist, involved supervising diet aides. My next job was as Director of Nutrition for Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, where I began with a staff of 5 and grew the programs and departments to include 63 staff in the areas of research, chronic disease management, health education, medical nutrition therapy(MNT), Native Hawaiian healing, and preventive health. When the CEO position opened at Waikiki Health, I accepted an offer to apply because of my experience at a federally qualified community health center (FQHC).
Q. Tell us of an individual who influenced you the most and why.
A. My parents influenced me to treat everyone as equals; to always be honest; to admit to mistakes; to be open to new and innovative ideas; and that all work is valuable.
Q. Who or what influenced your leadership style?
A. Again my parents who allowed my siblings and I to participate in family decision-making and lively debate. They approached things openly and at times with humor.
Q. What unique characteristics and strengths played a role in your professional development?
A. As the oldest of 3 sibling, I assumed a leadership role even when my parents did not ask it of me. I was frequently the sports team captain; held official offices in school; and naturally became a leader among my friends.
Q. Early leadership lessons for you?
A. I initially attempted to be friends with all employees and though I believe relationships at work are important to achieve success, I learned the hard way that one must establish and maintain certain boundaries to effectively lead, guide, discipline, and mentor.
Q. Describe a specific or unique challenge which occurred early in your leadership journey.
A. The primary challenge that I faced was being a manager at 23 years of age when some members of my staff were a generation older. I learned that it was important to respect experience, age, different perspectives, and generational differences.
Q. Which types of professional development activities did you find of value and why?
A. Though I continued to attend CME in the clinical arena, I gained the most from the UCLA Health Career Executive Program and as a Weinberg Fellow about leading an FQHC.
Q. Are there any habits, practices or activities you established to further cultivate your leadership style?
A. I feel strongly that spending a little time each day to talk with employees strengthens the bond we all have in our agency. Listening to their ideas, questions, and concerns helps us to formulate a better workplace. We are also fortunate to have our board of directors who are consumers of our health care. It further leads to success of our overall operation.
Q. What advice would you give to those looking to advance in the area of health care administration and leadership?
A. I believe it is important to experience the day to day activities which you are called to lead before you can step in to lead. Academic training is the foundation while experience at any level within an organization provides opportunities for success in future leadership roles.
Q. What are some things you've done in terms of the organizational culture that is Waikiki Health?
A. We have an annual all-staff day which consists of meetings and fitness or bonding activities. We have a robust employee wellness program for individuals and teams. We offer tuition assistance, have committees composed of staff and leadership. We have used the DISC assessment tool across the center and employed it in depth with leadership. We also hold a 6 month management leadership program.
Sheila, thank you for sharing your leadership journey and insights with us.