Leaders That Inspire

Mikhail Dzuba has been a leader at SFU for the past 24 years.  He is currently Director of the Bookstore, Spirit Shop and Document Solutions.  We sat down with Mikhail to talk about his leadership journey, and this is what he shared.

What’s been your most meaningful leadership learning experience that has shaped you as a leader?

“I would say it has to be from engaging with customers. My career of being in service roles has exposed me to a diverse range of people and perspectives, requiring me to be present and authentic. Through these experiences I have found a meaningful purpose. I think there is something fundamentally rewarding for us when we willingly put ourselves in a position to help others.”

How does your background inform your role as a leader?

“I grew up on a farm in the Okanagan. It prepared me for hard work, a willingness to pitch in attitude, and it also provided me a deep appreciation for the natural world.

I chose an educational development pathway to advance my creativity. This prepared me to think outside the box in order to solve problems and how to fully embrace change.

I also was fortunate enough to have exceptional mentorship when I started my role at SFU from someone who was a brilliant coach. Having the support I needed in these formative years really prepared me well for the leadership role I currently have.

I also focused on deep learning within my industry.  I’ve been very active as a volunteer in Associations in my field, and this has provided me with many opportunities for learning, through taking courses, teaching courses and holding board positions.”

What defining moments have occurred in your life/career and how have they shaped you as a leader?

“Rebellion against a decision I made once, I suppose it was my greatest leadership failure. We all encounter harsh criticism at some point. I think it’s how we respond to it and move on that will define us. I definitely learned from that situation how to lead people more effectively and the challenge taught me to be more compassionate towards others.”

What does being a leader mean to you?

“It’s so many things, it’s hard to narrow it down.  But for me, it’s about being selfless -to be there for the support of others.  It’s also about trying to create something in collaboration.  Being able to clearly define a vision, and inspire others towards this so you can achieve it collectively.  It’s also about nurturing and cultivating a team.”

What do you love about being a leader?

“People.  I love the ability to relate human-to-human.  There’s a responsibility in being a leader that forces you to be the kind of person who is true and has good integrity.

I also love that self-betterment is a driving force for leadership.  You’re always looking for ways to improve.  Leadership demands continual self-reflection.  Because this challenge is ever present, you’re always growing with it - it’s what I love the most.  It’s always pushing you to be better.”

What advice would you give to newer leaders?

“Follow the three Rs:
1. Respect for self
2. Respect for others
3. Responsibility for all your actions.”

What do you hope comes of SFU’s efforts to develop leaders?

“Empowerment – enabling our leaders to excel in their roles.
Respect – less criticism and more caring.
Inspiration – more motivating people with a shared vision.”

Do you have any favourite Leadership Resources?

"I find much wisdom in the Dalai Lama, and enjoy his simple truths, especially his 18 Rules of Living.”

"I find Brene Brown’s teachings to be very profound, and I reflect on them in search of being a better leader.  I think her BRAVING concept is quite relevant for a workplace.  It can bring forward a framework for creating trust - vulnerability-based trust.  She also has insightful TED talks and books."

What are you grateful for as a leader?

"Gratitude is what keeps me optimistic and happy.  What I’m most grateful for in the leadership role is the autonomy.  There’s a real sense of stewardship, ownership, and entrepreneurial respect.  It’s the autonomy and responsibility of making a decision, but also having the support of a team of people who are willing to follow you – to dig in, implement, get the work done to achieve something, and see the results.  It’s endlessly rewarding."



Is there an inspiring SFU leader that you think should be featured?  Please let us know by emailing hrlearn@sfu.ca.

Our Learning & Development Team is working to create new leadership development opportunities as part of the new Learning & Development Framework.  The goal is to inspire, develop and support outstanding leadership at SFU.  Details to come.

Current learning opportunities for managers are available here