Selina Lerma is the laboratory supervisor at UW Health in Belvidere, IL. Lerma was nominated by her peers for the 2022 Leadership Excellence Awards and received recognition with a Special Merit Award. Lerma shared with Lab Manager insight into her journey to become a lab leader, lessons she’s learned along the way, and pieces of advice for others in leadership and management roles.
Q: Can you briefly discuss your background, and what you do in your current role?
A: I started my leadership career off as the second oldest of five siblings. I have led them through many childhood challenges i.e., chicken pox, cuts/scrapes, roller skates, how to ride a bike, slumber parties, etc. I was 16 when I got my first real job at Baskin Robbins. I quickly became a lead “key holder/cash registrar” there. After graduating from college, I worked in different hospital/clinic settings. Every job I’ve had, I worked in a leadership role. I have approximately 28 years of leadership experience. Currently, I lead two amazing laboratory teams at the UW Medical Center Belvidere facility and the UW Regional Cancer Center facility where I am extremely grateful to be able to work with such a great group of people.
Q: What was your reaction to winning this award and what does it mean to you to win?
A: At first, I thought the email I received that said I won was spam until I saw that my teams were included in the email. I am so glad I did not forward the email off to our email security team, haha. Shock set in right after that, followed by sincere gratitude and appreciation for the recognition.
Q: What do you value the most about Lab Manager’s offerings/content?
A: I think it is amazing that Lab Manager is hosting a Leadership Summit focused on the important challenges that the laboratory is facing today. I do feel there will be valuable takeaways from the Summit.
Q: What resources or individuals did you learn your leadership and management skills from?
A: I learned from the best of the best, a leader of leaders. I was fortunate to have an exceptional mentor early on that taught me valuable leadership skills along the way and showed me the importance of being a good leader. I also continue educating myself by attending webinars, seminars, taking classes, reading articles, and learning from other leaders.
Q: In your opinion and experience, what is the most important quality or trait a good leader needs to have?
A: Having empathy or “the ability to understand the feelings of another” is most important to me. Having empathy and reminding myself that people are not just workers here to do a job; that they are human beings who spend a considerable amount of their life at work in order to help others. I want to help others help others through understanding.
Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
A: I enjoy spending time with my kiddos, my family, and friends. I like to go on bike rides with them, hike, and explore nature. I like to cook, but my family would say don’t quit your day job when it comes to how well I cook.
Q: What do you think are some common misconceptions about good leadership and management?
A: Some people say that leaders are born, not made. Even if a person is born with natural leadership abilities, there is always room for growth. You can look for opportunities to improve your strengths/individual qualities that make you stand out. You can hone in on resources that will help improve your leadership skills. You can always practice and learn to be a better leader.
Q: What’s the best piece of management and/or leadership advice you can share with our readers?
A: Nobody is perfect. You will fail and make mistakes—guaranteed. Learn from the failures, own the mistakes, humbly admit when you are wrong, take time to reflect, and see the missteps as a learning opportunity. This will help you become the leader that you would want to follow.
Lerma and fellow Leadership Excellence Awards winners will accept their award plaques during the Lab Manager Leadership Summit, taking place in Baltimore, MD, May 16-18. To learn more about this valuable event and to register to attend, visit: summit.labmanager.com/leadership