Interim Candidate Q & A: Gillian Siddall
As an academic leader, Gillian takes a collaborative approach to leadership that draws on the expertise of those around her. Having a strong ability to listen and hear the concerns of faculty and students has served her well in roles as a faculty member, instructor, researcher and Dean. Her management style puts a strong emphasis on communication, consultation, and mutual respect.
Prior to joining OCAD U as Interim Vice-President, Academic, she was Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at Lakehead University, following prior roles as founding Director of Lakehead’s Instructional Development Centre and Coordinator of the Graduate Program in English. With a significant record of publication and research grants, she has extensive undergraduate and graduate teaching experience at Lakehead University, where she was appointed as a member of the English Department in 1998.
"Interim executives need to possess the capacity to learn about the organization and its people as quickly as possible, identify its goals, and then match their own skills and experience to the task at hand."
What triggered/initially attracted you to start working as an interim executive?
I was contacted by Odgers about a position as Interim VP Academic at OCAD University. I was attracted to the idea of taking this role on an interim capacity as a way to explore a new kind of academic appointment. For OCAD U, the interim executive appointment process provided an opportunity to fill a vacated position with a qualified candidate, while taking the time necessary to undertake a search process to recruit for the full-time position.
What background experience has helped you succeed as an interim executive?
Having six years of experience as Dean of a large Faculty, as well as many years of experience as a faculty member, instructor and researcher have been assets.
Can you share what makes it worth it to you?
Becoming part of the OCAD University community was very exciting, and it was the one of the reasons I was interested in the position. It is incredibly rewarding to work in a creative environment with artists, designers and scholars. The Interim role also provided an exciting opportunity to live in Toronto and experience all that this great city has to offer.
Not everyone has what it takes to be successful as an interim executive. What do you feel is key to success?
I think the key requirement is the capacity to learn about the place and its people quickly, identify the goals that are important to the institution as quickly as possible and then match those against your own skills and experience.
Who in your life and career – business and personal – has shaped your leadership style?
Fortunately, I’ve had a number of important mentors and role models throughout my career, from my own professors when I was a student, to my colleagues as a faculty member, to the chairs and deans with whom I have worked. Students also continue to serve as important role models to me. Now, as Provost at OCAD U, I’ve had the chance to work under the visionary leadership of President Sara Diamond, and it is a privilege to have this opportunity to learn from her.
What do you think are the biggest organizational advantages that result from working with an interim executive?
Interim executives bring in a new voice and a new perspective that can be very beneficial to an institution. Even though they serve in an interim capacity, they do much more than fill a temporary gap. They bring energy, experience, and vision to help implement the institution’s own vision. They can sometimes also facilitate a needed reset, and help find solutions to existing challenges.
What do you enjoy about working with Odgers Interim?
It was a great experience working with the staff at Odgers Interim, especially Emily. She was supportive every step of the way. I would highly recommend the experience for others who seek challenging, stimulating work environments.
What is the one thing that most people get wrong about you?
Because of my consultative approach, people sometimes initially think that I won’t be able to make tough decisions. Tough decisions are a part of any leadership role, and they are best made in the context of consultation and collaboration.