LeaderLuncheon profile: Connie Mitchell

40th Annual LeaderLuncheon  |  June 14, 2017  |  12:00-1:30pm  |  Sheraton Waikiki

Connie Mitchell has led The Institute for Human Services (IHS) and stood at the forefront of addressing homelessness in Hawai‘i for over 10 years. During her tenure, IHS grew from serving 1,400 to more than 5,000 individuals through the development of case management, housing, employment, health promotion, and healing programs, and an array of specialty shelters for homeless people in our community. Prior to IHS, Connie established a nurse-run rural clinic on Hawai‘i Island and was Director of Nursing at the Hawai‘i State Hospital, where she helped settle a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. She serves on the boards of EPIC Ohana, Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, and the State’s Workforce Development Council. She is firmly committed to cross sector collaboration in the interest of social innovation.

Q & A with Connie Mitchell 

What types of qualities make a good leader?

Good leaders are people who are open to continuous learning; willing to take calculated risks; and willing to take responsibility for failures and recognizes her team when there are achievements to celebrate.  Good leaders also genuinely care about the people who they are serving.  They don’t put them in harm’s way needlessly.  Good leaders share by trying to cultivate leadership among those they lead.

What has helped you become a more effective leader?

Criticism helps keep me humble and self –reflective.  But it’s not about me, so I’d also say being aware and observant of people and the environment in which you are delivering services or a product is essential.   I need to be aware of any changing trends that could impact my ability to execute our mission.  I’ve always been someone who invests time in becoming more knowledgeable and skilled so that I’m able to improve on something our team is doing and also so that we are ready to execute ona new opportunity that may present itself.  I like to pick the brains of all kinds of people, especially successful entrepreneurs, scientists and ministers.

Name a woman leader who inspires you and explain why.

Connie Lau is someone I deeply admire.  She exemplifies for me a wonderful combination of strength, brains, beauty anda hardworking spirit.  She knew that being competent and consistent in executing projects that were assigned to her would inspire respect among colleagues and competitors alike.  She also presents as a very pragmatic person when it came to blending her work life with her personal life and she always looks great.  On a personal note,  my mother Jane Fong has been a role model for me in extending generous hospitality to others, working hard to achieve her goals and having the courage and audacity to make investments that others might discourage.  She got my father to buy a home instead of renting one and she obviously has no regrets.  She is 85 today and she is still helping others in a myriad of ways.

What was your dream job growing up?

I actually entertained the notion of becoming a journalist before I settled on a career in nursing.  I knew nursing was my calling because I enjoyed extending health and healing to people through care and healing touch.   In any case, my dream job would have to have variety, let me put my skills to good use and require me to problem solve challenging situations.  Perhaps I found my dream job at IHS!

What’s one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received?

Develop tough skin.  The more you accomplish, the more you should expect detractors to see a target on your back and lob criticism your way.  Another one:  You don’t have to  everything all figured out to move forward with a decision.  If you’re open to feedback, you can always do course corrections along the way.

As a woman leader, what can you advise others to do to help each other or help the next generation of women leaders?

Be the best “you” that you can be.  Everyone has a different style of leadership.  But being genuine is critical.  Being a leader was never something I aspired to be.  It was out of necessity in certain situations when someone was needed to step forward to lead and say “Let’s go this way…” that I was enlisted and subsequently entrusted with the responsibility of leadership. Once it was entrusted, I carried that mantle of responsibility with serious thought, never wanting to let people down.  I’ve had my share of failures and I’m not perfect by any means.  But when I’m “in” (committed).  I’m in all the way.  I guess I expect the same of those who lead beside me.  Young women need to see women leaders who are making change, in their own way.  It won’t be the same as how a many might do it.  But it has no less power and impact…maybe more.

LeaderLuncheon honors women for the contributions they have made to their professions and in their community.  Join us in supporting Hawaii’s commitment to the advancement of women leaders by attending the 2017 LeaderLuncheon. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 695-2620 or click on the button below.