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Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa on the Power of Authentic Leadership

Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa on the Power of Authentic Leadership

Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa is a powerhouse. An accomplished physician, spoken word poet, and advocate for equity-seeking groups, Chika has driven transformative change within Canada’s healthcare system and beyond, crediting four principles of authentic leadership for helping her succeed through adversity.

Chika was our opening speaker at Showcase 2024 — Speakers Spotlight’s annual client-exclusive, TED-style event. Her energy and warmth radiated from the stage as she walked audiences through her eye-opening journey into medicine and to becoming a trailblazer in her field.

“Dr. Chika was fantastic! She has a breadth of knowledge that is easily transferable to different areas and certainly the intelligence to customize as needed.”

Showcase 2024 attendee

Evolution of a Leader

Chika didn’t set out to transform healthcare in Canada. She, like many before her, had a childhood dream to become a doctor. Yet, as a second-generation Nigerian Canadian growing up in Brampton, ON, Chika had this dream without ever seeing it in reality. Growing up, none of the doctors in her immediate community looked like her.

“My story was really one of aspiring towards this career that didn’t necessarily feel tangible or concrete because the representation wasn’t exactly there,” Chika said.

After completing her undergraduate degree at McMaster University, Chika was accepted to her top choice medical school, the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto (U of T). She was the only Black student in her cohort — 259 students and she stood alone.

Just three months into her degree, Chika was asked to become an ambassador for U of T’s Black Student Application Program (BSAP). This program aimed to increase the number of Black individuals involved in the university’s candidate review and application process. As its ambassador, Chika would be asked to publicly share her experience of being the only black medical student in her year.

Chika’s friends and mentors advised against this, saying if she took on this public role she would ruin her career before it even began. But for Chika, it was never really a question. “While doing the right thing can be risky, it’s almost always a question of ‘how’ to do the right thing, not ‘whether’ to do the right thing,” she said. This is a key tenet of authentic leadership, and this moment was the start of Chika’s advocacy and leadership journey.

Since then, Chika became the first Black woman to be named sole valedictorian of the department and has spoken at numerous national and international events on the topics of DEI, leadership, mental health, and her journey as an underrepresented minority in medicine. Following her role as an ambassador of BSAP, U of T admitted the largest group of Black medical students in Canadian history, and Chika was named one of TIME magazine’s “2021 Next Generational Leaders” and one of Maclean’s Power 50 in 2022.

The Four Principles of Authentic Leadership

The key to leading with authenticity, Chika said, is a combination of curiosity, vulnerability, and the ability to navigate difficult conversations. Becoming an authentic leader begins with introspection — get deeply curious about who you are and what your values are.

After this self-work, you can begin actioning out authentic leadership within your workplace and your teams. It relies on the following four key principles or prescriptions, as Chika calls them.

1. Learn to lead bold conversations

After having that bold conversation with yourself, turn it outwards. Get intentionally curious about your work as a leader, your relationship with those you lead, and areas of improvement. This requires not only curiosity but vulnerability to accept that there may be flaws in your leadership and cracks in the foundation of your environment, Chika said.

“One of the most important things that I learned in medicine is that the best doctors aren’t the doctors that know everything,” she said. “The best doctors are the doctors that know they don’t know everything. And I would say, the same is for leaders.”

2. Ground yourself with compassion

In order to lead bold conversations, you need to be able to tap into your humanity and humility and practice self-compassion and compassion towards others. Grounding yourself with compassion helps you sit in the discomfort that enables growth and change.

3. Practice validation and gratitude

Validation is one of the most powerful tools a leader can have. It lets people know that you hear them, you see them, and you are here to support them, Chika said. In turn, grateful leaders are seen as having more integrity and being more trustworthy and authentic.

An environment built on gratitude also creates more resilience within teams with real physiologic ramifications, Chika added. Those who practice gratitude are more resilient to depression, heart disease, anxiety, and insomnia. It can also increase self-efficacy and lower cellular inflammation within the body.

4. Safeguard authenticity

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to safeguard your authenticity and the authenticity of others, this is the bedrock of organizational wellness, Chika said.

Ending her presentation, Chika shared a quote from her 2021 TEDx talk “Dare to Occupy Powerful Spaces” that captures the power and essence of authentic leadership: “You should dare to stand in your authenticity and occupy powerful spaces, or if you have had the historical privilege of doing so, I dare you to make room for those to step in from the margins. By doing this, you will not only empower yourself, but actually shift the culture of a collective and inspire a generation.”

Hire Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa as a Keynote Speaker

In addition to her medical degree, Chika has a master’s degree in health systems leadership and innovation from the University of Toronto. At Showcase 2024, she presented a truncated version of her popular keynote, “Authentic Leadership: Your Prescription to Success in the Future of Work”. She expanded on each of the points listed above, drawing on her personal and professional experience to share practical strategies that will help audiences action them out within their organizations.

As a resident doctor in psychiatry, Chika can also speak to mental health and wellness. She dives deep into the mechanics of wellness and what it looks like on an organizational level.

Contact us to learn more about Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa and how to book her for your next event.

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