Leadership Interview Project: Dr. Mirta Roses Periago
The interview was conducted with Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, the former director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) during the period (2003-2013). She was graduated from the National University of Cordoba in 1969 as a surgeon. Moreover, she had earned her degree in Public Health, with specialization in infectious diseases, at the University of Buenos Aires. Also, she was certified in Tropical Medicine at the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil. Her career started in hospital care and teaching started in Cordoba University, Argentina, then it was directed at the National Institutes and Research Board and the National Health Emergency Management Board of the nation’s Ministry of Public Health. In 1948, she joined the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization as coordinator of the Caribbean Epidemiology Center in Trinidad and Tobago. Then she was escalated in many other positions till 1995 when she became the Assistant Director of PAHO, then she was elected as the Director of the Pan American Sanitary Bureau in 2002 for two consecutive periods. By this, she became the first Argentine and the first woman to hold such position at the WHO since its foundation in 1902. She led the creation of the first special UN session on chronic diseases and the launch of Wellness Week in the Americas (World Health Organization, 2018).
How would you qualify your leadership style?
I used to implement many leadership and management initiatives, including coordination and negotiation with partners, technical cooperation among countries, advocacy for the PAHO/WHO mission, reports and Biennial Work plans which should be implemented on time and within budget. The leadership of the PAHO/WHO maintained active engagement in health and development formal and informal partnerships, including the UN forums with regard to health issues (World Health Organization, 2011). Accordingly, I can qualify my leadership style as a transformational leader, I used to induce people under my supervision towards striving for their higher needs. I always look for useful outcomes for both the individual and the organizational levels. Individuals sacrifice to achieve the organizational goals. Through establishing a role model, I could gain the trust of the followers and partners worldwide and could effectively fulfill PAHO/WHO goals. My subordinates used to be inspired, motivated and enjoying high levels of morality. I used to give special attention to them and to make sure that appropriate decisions are taken. As the team members are empowered, they can make process evaluation, planning, budgeting, time management, and many other related activities.
What do you find most admirable in people? Why are those things so important to you?
In my opinion, the followers are influenced by the leaders’ behaviors in most of the cases. Effective leadership characteristics could be reflected in the followers’ behaviors. I prefer the active and proactive followers who have the courage to express their opinions, share information, collaborate with each other and maintain good communications. Followers who are proactive with my feedback and remarks are conducting positive attitude,open minded, provide honest answers to my questions and show participatory attitude.This type of followers is able to create two way communication and healthy environment.
What type of followers you find least admirable by you? And why?
People who usually take the negative direction are the alienated followers who can think independently but act in a passive way, as they are only concerned with their personal interests and feel uncertain.The self-centric approach of those followers needs to be carefully monitored, motivated and directed to be able to cooperate with the team members and fulfill the organizational goals. Another pattern, is the conformist people who always accept the directions of the leader without any kind of discussion or thinking of the consequences. This type of people could hinder the work as they do not offer any new ideas that assist in enhancing the work process due to their fear of losing their job. I am a democratic leader I appreciate the active and proactive followers who express their opinions and provide creative ideas to enhance the workplace, not the passive followers who act as the sheep and obey the orders of their leader and let me think instead of them.
What’s the best way to get others to do what you want them to do?
I use different motivational tools to let people do what is required from them and share effectively in the decision making process. Employee motivational tools are used to align what motivates the employee to the work with various degrees. They are used in maintaining the employee commitment, job satisfaction and lower absenteeism and turnover rates. These motivational tools include, building trust, as without trust people start to fear from each other, and blame them instead of delivering results. Also, to ensure that the employees feel positive at work. Moreover, I used to listen from different sources to get new ideas concerning effective employee engagement. In addition, I always search for the expectations of the employees and design the tasks accordingly, including financial and non-financial motivations and incentives to ensure effective employee engagement. Also, roles and responsibilities are allocated according to the employees’ strengths to ensure effective execution of tasks. Moreover, I used to emphasize stretch goals to enable the employees to express new and innovative ideas and creative ways of goal fulfillment. Also, job rotation could be used as a motivational tool to help employees to learn new tasks and to assist them to grow as leaders. Job rotation provides employees with many new ideas and broaden their thinking.
Sample questions for the interview
What were the top principles you have learned?
The principles I learnt during my professional life are so many, but I will concentrate on the major principles I believe they control my actions. To be self-confident is the first principle, as it gave me the power to implement new ideas in practice. My belief that I can do whatever I dream of could energize me and my followers as well. The second principle is the necessity of creating and maintaining a healthy organizational climate and culture to ensure better contribution and employee engagement. This principle ensures that every employee feels appreciated and valued, which maintains trust and creates healthy communication atmosphere. The third principle is about empowering employees to get the most of their efforts when they take the responsibility and feel free to take decisions. Respecting their failures and giving them the chance to correct their actions to assist in creating good future leader. The fourth principle is to encourage the creativity of the employees and help them to provide the best ideas that could be implemented and gain the support of their leader. Guidance should take place, but helping people to discover and express their hidden capabilities assist them in providing creative solutions.
This interview was very fruitful, as it could increase my awareness of the professional experience of the former director of the PAHO/WHO, and I could gain new insights concerning leadership and its effectiveness from her practice. I could understand that the transformational leader, is highly effective in inducing people under their supervision through, concentration on the final results for people and the organization (Ahmed et al., 2016). He aims to motivate the subordinates and maintain their high levels of morality (Harper, 2012). It is very important that the employee feels he is valued and respected and free to express his opinion as he finds leader support (Afsar et al., 2014).
Followers that show active and proactive attitudes are considered the best followers that match the transformational leadership (Ford & Harding, 2015). As they tend to express their ideas, show cooperative attitude with their colleagues, open minded, honest, work for the collective interests of the group and show participatory attitude (Bandstra, 2013). They assist in creating a healthy environment and maintain good communication skills. In contrast, the passive type of employees are self-centric and work hard (Ford & Harding, 2015). But they seek to fulfill self-interests instead of the group interest (Alan & Bekker, 2009). They lack courage and creativity and just follow the rules set by their leaders (Ahmad et al., 2012).
It is useful to leaders to use a variety of motivational tools to align people motivation to work according to their styles and the tool that is highly compatible with their attitudes and could be effective in motivating them (Gignac & Palmer, 2011). As employee engagement is becoming a challenging issue to different types of organizations. Motivational tools are efficient in connecting the employee mentally and physically with the workplace. The unappreciated worker faces difficulties in the highly competitive market. The motivational tools include trust in the leader, colleagues and the rules of the organization. It also includes financial and non-financial incentives. The authority delegation empowers employees and energizes them to do their best to succeed in achieving the desired goals (Rao, 2017).
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