International Women’s Day: Five Tips on Leadership Excellence
Sagora Senior Living celebrates International Women’s Day (March 8). In observance of this global day recognizing the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, Sagora asked five of its best to share some leadership advice, applicable to any profession.
Find mentors and be a mentor
Dara Brown, Senior Vice President, is responsible for overseeing the operations of 39 senior living communities throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, and California.
Brown says her leadership inspiration and drive come from serving residents and associates. She also receives inspiration from one of her mentors, Sagora President Bryan McCaleb, “for his heart, leadership, transparency, and sense of humor.”
Similarly, under Brown’s strong mentorship and influence Sagora associates have a transformational leader as a mentor. Her influence has made a deep impression on associates, creating a positive and innovative workplace. As a result, Sagora has more than quadrupled in size over that past eight years, expanding from six to 39 communities through key acquisitions and new construction projects.
She says lessons learned from past mentors have molded her professionally.
“Past mentors (good and bad) have something to teach us,” she says. “For me, there were some important takeaways: No job here is beneath me; Remain in touch with business details; Don’t ask anyone to do what you are not willing to do; Hire well and have fun.”
Brown has some thoughts about how Sagora Senior Living aligns with her leadership style.
“Sagora is built on our core values of commitment, communication, empowerment, and excellence,” said Brown. “This philosophy aligns 100 percent with who I am and how I lead the company.”
Embrace your professional enthusiasm
Christal Hoffman, Corporate Director of Lifestyles & Pathways, says her eight-year career in senior living has ranged from certified nurses aid, lifestyle director, regional lifestyles and pathway specialist before being promoted to her current post.
A pre-med science graduate, Hoffman says a good attitude, respectful leadership, consistency, and an open mind lets leaders grow and thrive. She also believes in allowing enthusiasm and passion to inspire work.
“In business, emotions in capable and strong leaders (especially women) is seen as weakness,” she says. “I believe they can be a driving force. If anything, they should be part of your professional commitment. The minute you are not able to laugh, sing and cry with residents or your team when you lose the emotions, is when you no longer need to be in this beautiful and rewarding business.”
Aside from enthusiasm, Hoffman says leaders must inspire excellence while lending support.
“At Sagora Senior Living I am led by a very strong woman (Dara Brown, Senior Vice President) who inspires me on a daily basis as well as demands excellence from all,” she says. “I have been given opportunities, not dependent on my gender, but on my skills and work ethic to build my knowledge in other areas of senior living. The empowerment of project ownership, with the right tools, training and expectations, allow me to take ideas and deliver outcomes for those we serve.”
Trust and support your team
Audi Mills, Regional Director of Operations, a four-year veteran of the United States Airforce, she says her greatest job is being a mother of three. Raised by her grandparents, she wanted to give back to the senior population.
After becoming a nurse, she entered and served the senior care industry serving in the capacity of a divisional and, later, national director in five states over memory care. Mills now serves Sagora Senior Living residents.
Her leadership is inspired by developing other leaders.
“I believe it’s important to allow people to show you what they’re capable of and to do their best while providing leadership direction and resources,” she says. “You have to give associates the freedom to make decisions independently, otherwise, you’re not giving them the opportunity to truly develop and learn to their fullest potential.”
Regarding her own professional journey, Mills says she feels her work and efforts with Sagora Senior Living are validated.
“Sagora supports the role of women leaders by evaluating performance on a level playing field,” Mills says. “They strive to hire the best talent (regardless of gender) for the growth and betterment of the company.”
Honesty and integrity are the best leadership policy
Michelle Boiles, Executive Director Specialist, relocated to Texas from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Boiles brought her 20 years of property management and senior living industry executive directorship experience to Sagora.
She describes herself as a team-oriented professional who leads with genuine dedication and honesty.
“My passion, commitment and dedication to be the best leader for my residents and my associates are a driving force for my own leadership style,” Boiles says. “I also believe a great leader leads with integrity and transparency. You need to motivate and inspire your team to want to be successful.”
She believes that Sagora Senior Living supports the role of women leaders.
“Sagora gives you the proper training, tools and support to walk into a community and lead it with the feeling of empowerment,” Boiles says. “That transparency, communication, culture and willingness to help others keeps me motivated to be the best I can be.”
Leadership is a responsibility to empower others
Jennifer Mross, Executive Director of the Viera, a 17-year veteran in the senior living industry, she has earned many awards for leadership development, organizational and executive management, strategic planning, and exemplary customer service.
A graduate of Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi with a Master of Applied Science in clinical psychology, Mross says her measure for leadership success is based on a resident’s total health and wellbeing when they experience quality services. She credits that success on Sagora’s succinct “Resident First” philosophy.
“The ‘Resident First’ principle is truly at the core of everything we do and every decision we make,” Mross says. “The integrity behind those words empowers me to make good decisions quickly. It allows us to change lives.”
Mross has been a mentor to many other senior living executive directors over the years providing support and encouragement to leaders across the state.
She says leadership is a privilege and comes with “immense responsibility” where those who lead must recognize and help others cultivate their talents. She believes this is key to achieving overall organizational goals.
“Everyone has something they are exceptionally good at,” she says. “I feel like it is my responsibility to find those qualities and inspire, encourage and motivate associates. Doing this ultimately ensures the residents are provided with the standard of excellence they deserve.”
A recurring theme with all Sagora leaders included the importance of role models.
“Sagora Senior Living provides us with outstanding role models in our senior leadership,” Mross says. “I believe this creates a sense of professional equality within the company.”
Along with career path programs, recognition, training and education, charitable involvement and emergency funds for all its associates, Sagora Senior Living supports equal opportunity.