Staff and Faculty

New program unlocks leadership potential in SFU managers

September 09, 2019

By Kevin Cherney

The first graduates of Simon Fraser University’s Leadership Foundation Program (LFP) say the lessons learned promise to transform their career trajectories.

“It was incredible,” says Paige Labar, SFU student-life coordinator and member of the LFP’s inaugural cohort. “I’ve been going back and applying some of these tools and I’ve seen how the program has changed my role as a leader.”

Established in 2018, the LFP is a leadership development program that equips emerging leaders with the capacity, confidence and connections to succeed in their roles.

“We know from experience and research that the most critical relationship in any organization is the one between an employee and their direct leader,” says Sandi de Domenico, associate vice-president of human resources.“Supporting and developing leaders is key to having a highly effective and engaged workforce." 

She adds, "There’s been a huge gap in leadership development here at SFU. Our Leadership Foundation Program aims to fill that gap by inspiring, developing and supporting our leaders.”

The program, now in its second cohort, brings together newer leaders to learn from senior SFU leaders and expert facilitators from outside of academia. Strategic planning, coaching skills, leading through conflict, and managing mental health are just a few of the learning modules included in the comprehensive 10-month curriculum.

Rather than shorter, intensive workshops or online learning modules, Human Resources chose an in-person cohort-based model to help facilitate connections and create a culture of peer support. The cohort meets two days per month over the ten month program.

“We began with newer leaders in order to support their development as they start their careers," says de Domenico. "We know that newer leaders can sometimes feel isolated.”

“We chose a cohort-based model for this program to help foster strong relationships between the participants, which encourages them to share ideas, challenges and knowledge. An added benefit is that participants learn about different departments across the institution.”

Andrew Chesham, associate director of the continuing studies creative writing department and member of the inaugural LFP cohort says, “The single biggest benefit of the program for me as a new manager has been connecting with other members of the SFU community.”

The program joins a host of other learning opportunities and benefits available to staff and managers, such as workshops through Human Resources and courses through Continuing Studies, and benefits such as tuition waivers, tuition reimbursements and professional development funds. This fall, Human Resources will offer a pilot Leadership Foundation Program for more experienced leaders.

“These resources and opportunities are meant to foster a supportive learning culture where employees and leaders work together to continually develop their knowledge, skills and competencies,” says de Domenico. “This, in turn, helps ensure the success of both individual and organizational goals.”

“We want our people and teams to reach their full potential while also contributing to, and creating, highly inspiring and engaged workplace cultures.”

First Leadership Foundation Program Cohort participants - Top: Andrea Wong, Cecilia Kalaw, Albert Lam, Andrew Chesham, John Born, Dennis Kong, Kris Torno, Paige LaBar, Jon Duffin. Bottom: Rebecca Ho, Tammy Theis, Marina Rahinskaya, Tracey Rollins, Jaclyn de Jong, Kim Mah, Eric Tseung. Absent: Aniko Takacs-Cox, David Zheng, Jen Jackson, Laura Kerek, Mike Stanger, Wanda Dekleva.