September 25, 2014 marked the inaugural East Bay Leadership Luncheon Series hosted by the East Bay Leadership Council. The luncheon series featured three leaders from major East Bay-based science, healthcare, and technology companies. Title21 Health Solutions CEO, Lynn Fischer was joined by two fellow panelists: Pamela Reilly Contag, CEO, ConcentRx, and Jane Willemsen, President and CAO, John Muir Medical Center. Ann Notarangelo, KPIX Weekend Edition Anchor, moderated the panel discussion which explored emerging trends in business and leadership in today’s dynamic market. As the panel discussion got underway, many compelling topics were discussed such as the mindset of a great leader, the significance of relationships, the courage to challenge the status quo, and the importance of passion as your driving force.
“This is such an impressive gathering of the leaders throughout our region from the business, nonprofit and academic sectors so critical to our economy and our communities,” remarked East Bay Leadership Council President and CEO Kristin Connely in her welcoming statements to the audience. Notarangelo, the moderator kicked off the discussion asking the panelists about their ideals of what it takes to be an effective leader in today’s business landscape.
“Leadership is more a mindset than anything else,” explained Fischer, CEO of Title21 Health Solutions. “I start from my vision and work backwards. You start with a belief that you can do something, and don’t take no for an answer.”
Pamela Reilly Contag, CEO of ConcentRx, expanded on Fischer’s sentiments stating, “Not everyone is a leader, and perhaps the better question is: how can we be great collaborators? What leaders can do for people is to clearly define and align the mission so that everyone is on the same page and has the same agenda.”
Among the poignant advice expressed throughout the luncheon was the importance of surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who share in your mission and can challenge you to be the best leader you can be.
Fischer mentioned a mentor who told her that “everything relates to everything. That was the fundamental thesis of his class. Everything prepares you for what you are doing now… and there is nothing like learning from the absolute best.” Fischer explained that she fosters an environment at Title21 Health Solutions which cultivates leadership. “My job is to grow leaders, not just me, but everyone.”
Jane Willemsen, president and CAO of John Muir Medical Center, shared a powerful piece of advice she was given by one of her mentors, who said to her, “Jane, not everyone has to be just like you. That was a life-changing message and goes along with what we are all saying. We need to welcome diversity and learn to understand the value of relationships and politics as we go forward in our careers. We need to learn that being effective in relationships is more important than always having the right answer.”
Passion, perseverance, and the ability to challenge the status quo were apparent themes in the advice given by all three of the entrepreneurial and accomplished panelists. “You have to have your antenna up and connect the dots,” said Contag. “Always have your eyes open for information. In our culture everyone gets to put their idea on the table … I always go back and challenge the assumption. As a young scientist, I wanted to be an academic scientist. I’ve been trained in a different way to look at the world.”
“It took us six years to fund our company,” explained Contag. “Your message isn’t always heard right away. If you’re passionate about it, stick with it. Change creates a lot of turmoil.”
The ability to thrive and adapt in a dynamic environment was a trait all the panelists agreed was critical to success.
“I love change. I’ve never been satisfied with the status quo,” said Fischer. “You’ve got to create an environment that loves change, and stay close to who you are serving. We are all in the service business. At the core of leadership and success is passion. You need to know where you’re going. The fundamentals are the same. Be a lifelong learner.”
Quotes and Photographs Courtesy of the East Bay Leadership Council
About the East Bay Leadership Council
The Council, or EBLC, is a private sector, public policy organization with a membership that includes business, nonprofit organizations, government, education and labor. The mission of the Council is to provide advocacy on public policy issues affecting the economic vitality and quality of life in the Greater East Bay region. For more information, see www.eastbayleadershipcouncil.com.