Practical Leadership

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Copyright © 2000 Harry van Bommel

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical copying, recording or otherwise, except with the prior written permission of the author or under license from the Canadian Copyright Agency.


We will all be patients one day just as all patients can be healers and comforters to us if we give them the chance. This book is about using fundamental skills to enhance your work experience while enhancing the healing experience for your patients.

The chapters are divided by the acronym: PRACTICAL which highlights the type of information provided in this book: Principled Leadership, Resolving Conflicts, Awareness, Communication, Team Skills, Impassioned Supervision, Change Management, Action Oriented Planning and Life-Long Skills.

It is not important how you divide the knowledge and skills. They are interconnected in unlimited ways to meet the needs of unlimited situations and circumstances. What is important is to apply the skills predictably, consistently and fairly.

What Next?

Each section within the book has specific exercises. Sometimes it will be enough just to review the exercise and mentally answer the questions. If you want to enhance your behavior, however, you will need to reflect, write and implement the behavior changes immediately. All of us have read information and thought, “Oh, I know that”. The improvement comes, however, from applying your knowledge and enhancing or developing a new skill.

The next step, then, is to go back to the beginning and chose what specific skills you want to master. Chose only one or two at first until you are satisfied with your improvement in those areas. Only then, go on to other skill areas.

We are often asked by workshop participants and colleagues for advanced skills. “I already know the basics”, they say. More often than not, the advanced skills are actually practicing and applying the basic ones. Each of you would make a fortune if you got paid triple your hourly salary for every hour you wasted on meetings that were run ineffectively. Yet the person chairing the meeting and the participants all know the “basics” of running effective meetings. Reflect, write out the answers and implement behavior changes using the exercises in this book to dramatically, and in short order, improve the skills within your own circle of colleagues and customers.

The key exercise is at the beginning of the book. You cannot be an effective leader, communicator and colleague without knowing your own beliefs, assumptions and effective behaviors. You need to understand your morals and basic ethics and how they translate into effective leadership and compassionate care.  You need to understand your own story as you continue to learn more about other people’s stories—your patients, their families and your colleagues. It is through these stories that we humanize our patients and the bureaucratic healthcare system in which we work. It may often appear that our healthcare system values the bottom line more than the people it serves and the people who provide the service. However, a system is made up of tens of thousands of professionals who have the knowledge and skills to make a difference and to humanize what has always been a very human situation—the healing and caring of sick or dying clients, family members, friends and neighbors.

About the Authors

Harry van Bommel, M.Ad.Ed. is the author of 20 books, including the fields of management and staff development and health and hospice care. He is co-Executive Director of Resources Supporting Family and Community Legacies Inc., a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing free or below cost information in the fields of home and hospice care; helping people record their life stories; and community development. He has appeared in over 150 television, radio and print media interviews. Mr. van Bommel has helped educate thousands of people through his workshops and public speaking engagements. Some of his books are available for free reading and printing from his website:

Beverley Powell-Vinden, R.N., B.N.Sc., M.Ed. is president of PowerPhrase Communications where she specializes in freelance editing, proofreading and health education consulting. Her clients include not-for-profit organizations, hospitals, community health centres, professional associations, and health care and educational professionals. Ms. Powell-Vinden's experience includes coordinating a provincial professional education program, developing customer service programs for health care organizations, developing educational resources using principles of clear language, consulting on the issue of access to health information and teaching groups how to use the Internet to find health information. She received her undergraduate degree from Queen's University and graduate degree from Brock University. She was a bedside nurse for five years with a specialty in neuroscience.

Michèle Chaban, M.S.W., DPhil. received a Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Toronto, and a Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Whales. Dr. Chaban is the Director of the Psychosocial-Spiritual Program at the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care. She is a Social Worker and Clinical Thanatologist with the Centre and practices individual, family and group therapy privately. Previously, Dr. Chaban worked in Oncology and Palliative Care with the Department of Social Work at Mount Sinai Hospital. Dr. Chaban is affiliated with the Faculty of Social Work at the Faculty of Family Medicine, and the Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto. She teaches a course on Spirituality and Ethics in Centennial College’s Palliative Care Program. Dr. Chaban lectures on issues related to people who are dying and their families, and how they are cared for by the health care system. Her thesis An Analysis of the Life Work of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and its Impact on the Death Awareness Movement has recently been published. A second book, Spiritual Legacies of Suffering will be published shortly. Dr. Chaban is an active member of the Palliative Care Council of Toronto.

Elizabeth Latimer, M.D., C.C.F.P., F.C.F.P. is a Professor in the Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University specializing in Palliative Care and Pain Management. She is a consultant physician at the Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation, a Fellow of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and a certificant of the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Dr. Latimer has published extensively in the fields of palliative care, control of chronic cancer pain, issues in the delivery of health care to the dying, and the ethical basis of practice and decision-making. She has participated as an international scholar at the Hasting's Centre for Biomedical Ethics in Briarcliff Manor, New York and in the Netherlands studying the issue of euthanasia. Dr. Latimer is an international lecturer and consultant and has visited Saudi Arabia and South Africa in this capacity. Before entering medical training, Dr. Latimer nursed for nine years in a hospital and in the community. In 1999, Dr. Latimer received the Award of Excellence in Palliative Care from the Canadian Palliative Care Association in recognition of her contribution to the field of Palliative and Hospice Care in Canada.

Most recently, Larry Lewis, M.A. was Program Director, Community Living and Director of Education at a Toronto hospital specializing in rehabilitation and complex continuing care. As the former Director of Management Education at the Ontario Hospital Association, Mr. Lewis directed comprehensive management development and leadership training in the hospital industry throughout Ontario for more than ten years. In the private sector, he was a Regional Branch Manager for a large rehabilitation company offering multidisciplinary case management services to the insurance industry. Mr. Lewis was an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Brunswick as well as a registered psychologist. He has an M.A. from the University of Waterloo where he completed extensive doctoral studies and two years of specialized training and research at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (University of Toronto). Mr. Lewis maintains a communication and education practice in Toronto, Ontario and Puebla, Mexico. Currently, he is providing educational services to a community care access centre in Toronto.