Michael Burns

Michael Burns

President and CEO, Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation | Former CEO, Invictus Games

Under Michael Burns’ leadership, the Toronto Invictus Games were completely sold out, and viewed by more than 40 million people around the world. But, more than anything, the Games continued to enhance the global understanding of the ongoing challenges veterans face. Known for his passion for community giving, Burns now leads the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation — one of the top five cancer research centres in the world — as President and CEO, where he brings together his extensive background in fundraising, brand building, and donor engagement to lead the charge in treating and eradicating the disease.

With more than 20 years of experience in marketing, financial services, technology and entrepreneurship, Burns took a leave of absence from his role as Vice-President, Corporate Development at AudienceView to head up the 2017 Invictus Games as CEO in 2015. Prior to that, he was President of Thornmark Asset Management and President of Clearsight Wealth Management Inc.

Burns is also the co-founder of the True Patriot Love Foundation, which supports Canada’s military, veterans, and their families by funding programs for mental health, physical rehabilitation, career transition, and family services. He is Past Chair of the Michael Garron Hospital Foundation Board and successfully led the team that secured the Garrons’ historic $50-million donation. Burns is also on the Board of the Canadian Institute for Military & Veteran Health Research and is a member of the Board of Directors of two world-class entertainment venues in Toronto: Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall.

In 2017, Burns received a Doctor of Laws from Dalhousie University. In 2016, Canada’s Governor-General, on behalf of the Queen, awarded him The Meritorious Service Cross for his work with military families. In 2012, he was awarded the Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service, the military’s highest honour for a civilian. That year, he was also awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal honouring significant contributions and achievements by Canadians. In addition, in 2010, he was named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40.

Transforming Empathy into Empowerment: Leadership Lessons from the Toronto 2017 Invictus Games

Under the leadership of Michael Burns, the Toronto Invictus Games were completely sold out, viewed by more than 40 million people around the world, and transformed from a regional sport competition to a global movement showcasing ill, injured, and wounded service members, veterans, and their families from around the world.

Burns shares his stories and strategies from the trenches about getting the Games off the ground, from starting with zero dollars in the bank and no employees to securing more than $46M in funding and millions more in in-kind support, assembling a team of more than 80 employees and more than 1,700 volunteers, along with securing more than 100 corporate and community partners.

With only two years to get the Games underway, Burns explains how he drew upon the power of the mission – to transform empathy into empowerment – to keep himself and his team motivated.  By doing so, Burns helped the Games become an acclaimed international success and created a surplus of funds that was reinvested into Canadian military families.