Thoughts from our Mental Health Webinar "Do our Aged Care Leaders find it harder to ask for help?"


We tend to underestimate our daily actions as an act of leadership. We celebrate significant events and big victories, but not necessarily how our small gestures could change the face of the world. Any daily action can change the world of a person who crosses our path. Once you recognise that ability that you have, life becomes a series of opportunities to lead.

Last month we held our mental health webinar "Do our Aged Care Leaders find it harder to ask for help?", a panel discussion on mental health within our industry.

As we connected with leaders across the Aged Care Industry, we were beginning to see the significant impact this year has had on senior management positions' mental health.

This panel led by our Managing Director, Heath Downie and special guests, Lynn Bailey - Fresh Hope Care, Sharyn McIlwain - Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), Melissa Argent - Rockpool Residential Aged Care, Matt Sierp - Sapphire Coast Aged Care, Peter Williams - OneCare Limited, Jason Eldering & Sandra Glaister - SCC Queensland was a space where we shared stories and experiences of hope, strength and courage. We spoke of unplugging, COVID-19, leadership, tribes and teams, self-care and everything in between.

A central topic of the panel discussion was Leadership. As mentioned above, recognising that leadership is not just the big things, but all things big and small that build-up to create a great leader.

How do some of our most prominent leaders in the Aged Care industry today handle leadership? How do they ensure that they find the balance not to take on all the responsibility but still provide that direction to their team whilst they expected to lead in many areas?

Leaders know their goals and do small things every day to reach their destination. But it's not always about them; they are there to help others move forward in their projects and remove their doubts so that they can act and vice versa. Leaders need help from their team to arrive at the best decision for the organisation or facility.

Lynn Bailey, Executive Manager, Fresh Hope Care was running a RAC for the first time in her career last year, and due to COVID, the team, just after she arrived significantly decreased. She thought "oh my goodness, I've never run a RAC and now I have no one to support me do it". However, what it made her realise is that it's ok to be vulnerable and say "I've got no idea but let's work through it together".

We need to be mindful that leadership is not a skill that we develop overnight, it takes time and effort, and it is, in many ways, the constant development of skills. As a leader, there will always be a moment of doubt or a complex problem that you may not be able to figure out. That is why it is so essential to build a support group around you. Find people that are there to support you when you need them and vice-versa.

Melissa Argent, CEO, Rockpool RAC found her most important lesson with being a leader is "It's actually ok to show your vulnerability, and we (leaders) don't always have the right answers, but I know that I can pull my team in all together – and we don't always agree, we love each other unconditionally I say, but we don't always have to agree and then you often get the right answer".

Melissa has created a safe place at Rockpool RAC for leaders and teams to come together, that she's not the only person carrying the burden of everything. By valuing her team's opinions (even difference of opinions at that) she and her team can tackle anything together, most likely in all cases resulting in a better solution than if a leader was to carry the decision making and solution-finding themselves. Melissa says the best way to be a leader is to "go out there and be amongst it". Be seen, be part of your team.

"One of the things I have learned is that when you walk into the building, you talk to everybody that you can talk to" is one of Peter Williams, CEO of OneCare's best tips for ensuring that the camaraderie of the team is always maintained.

We've spoken many times about balance, good leaders are vulnerable with their team and accept their team's ideas as a way to work towards the common goal of what is best for the organisation. It's important to note for those of us who are not leaders, that we remember our leaders are people too and are trying to do the best they can.

Sharyn McIllwain, State Manager VIC/TAS, LASA stated this perfectly; "The emotion that I have experienced from our leaders in the past few months has been real, they are real humans caring for real humans. Not one of us goes to work in this sector to ruin someone's life. We always go in with the best intent of making a difference every single day."

To be a leader is to be the catalyst of a positive event for others, contributing to their development and helping them in a necessary decision-making process. It can seem terrifying when you realise that you can have so much impact on others, without knowing it, without being aware of it. It is essential to recognise that leaders are influential agents and affect others' lives that go beyond money and power.

Leadership is a state of mind and not just a position in an organisation. It is the ability to put into action ambitions and objectives while staying on course and leading others to a common goal. It also means having courage. Mastering one's strengths and weaknesses to make them pillars of your daily actions and to inspire others. Accept yourself and accept all life challenges around you. By doing so, you will realise that you are already a leader in your life in so many ways.

Going back to that common goal, the true mark of leadership is a team that works together like a well-oiled machine. A machine where everybody is heard and understood and where you are all striving for that one thing; 'the residents receive the very best care'. Whilst a team cannot exist without a leader, a leader cannot exist without a team, and I think it's important to remember that.




3 Years in Aged Care (and counting!)



Many years in, many more to come!

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