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September 2010
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Leadership When We Need It Most

Monday, September 13, 2010 @ 04:09 PM

This week newly minted CEO Michael Cloutier, of the Canadian Diabetes Association, spoke at the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto.

It was a sell out crowd of over 300 people for a breakfast no less.

For the pedestrian observer Diabetes is a dreadful disease. It causes untold health disaster to those afflicted with it and there are any numbers of celebs schlocking for health related companies whose target audience is a person with Diabetes. Blah blah blah… so why the enormous media coverage?

Well, in my view, there are two reasons.

The first is the message and the second is who delivered it.

Let me start with the second. Michael Cloutier is a leader – point finale. He has presence, style and a network of politicos, health execs, patient advocates and opinion leaders across the country. He is a superb developer of human capital and motivates the hell out of those with whom he interacts.

The Canadian Diabetes Association made a brilliant choice making him its CEO. At a time prior to his appointment, the organization was floundering. Its leadership role had faded and it appeared to be concentrating only on its fund-raising rather than its historic and hallowed role as a champion for diabetes management and the key opinion leader for strategies to manage what it calls the tsunami of diabetes to plague the country. In short, the CDA had lost its way.

A one-time leader in the development of the Ontario Diabetes Strategy – an enormously aggressive plan by the government of Ontario to tackle the scourge of Diabetes – the CDA was virtually invisible from late 2007 to Cloutier’s appointment.

So, enter Cloutier. His mantra is always “show your brains off” – and he did so right away. Assessing his team, he reached out across the country to put them and all their target audiences on notice that Diabetes is an issue that requires the leadership of Canada’s most definitive voice on the topic.  He then moved quickly to deliver messages to information thirsty audiences.

This brings me to the first reason. The message.

Cloutier delivered a passionate speech rife with admonishment to government for not acting fast enough on the imminent increase in diagnoses of Diabetes across the country. In the case of the Economic Club speech, he directed his appeal to three areas; identifying the root causes of Diabetes, getting programs to patients and preventing Diabetes altogether.

He lamented the fact that heretofore lip service was basically the order of the day and he issued a challenge to the health community to dig in and work together to produce the kinds of outcomes that, if done properly and collaboratively, will produce better results.

He wasn’t using platitudes or rhetoric. He provided tangible evidence on the cost of Diabetes ($4.1 billion today with a forecast in years to come of $7 billion) and offered solutions for government, patients, providers and industry to consider.

In all it was a powerful message.

What was not surprising was the applause Cloutier received from the sell out crowd. They had been waiting for someone to take the dais – and that he did.

Cloutier IS a leader. Cloutier will lead a charge and motivate his team, industry, government and patients to work together for what will be an epidemic in future if left unchecked.

The work of the CDA will go on record in years to come as a catalyst for ridding Canada of the insidiousness of Diabetes and it will be due to his selfless leadership in bringing about that end.

- Marc Kealey
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