A new direction for JewishCare

10 July 2021: The first six months in any job is always dynamic, but when it’s the top job of an established community organisation like JewishCare, operating in the middle of a pandemic, the challenges are tenfold and effective leadership is critical for agility, change and growth.

We took a moment to chat to Gary Groves, CEO of JewishCare, to reflect upon his first six months in this pivotal role, gain insights for his plans ahead and hear his thoughts on what it takes to be an effective leader.

We are inspired with his leadership and excited for the future direction of an integral part of our Jewish community.

What has impressed you the most during your time at JewishCare?
The sense of community support was overwhelming and the willingness of employees to go that extra mile to make a difference for our clients. They are our engine room at JewishCare. Their commitment to our culture, the family mentality and their expertise and knowledge has really inspired me.

Being new to the Jewish community, I also feel privileged to have met with so many of our community partners and generous donors who are willing to collaborate for the greater benefit. I think we’re going to see some great traction over the next six months that we can all be excited for.

What changes are ahead for JewishCare?
JewishCare has built strong foundations since its inception in 1937, with various iterations along the way as its responded to changing needs. My vision for JewishCare is to build upon these initial building blocks to enhance our customer experience, contemporise our practices and ensure we’re positioned to not just meet the needs of our community today, but planning for how JewishCare ensures we’re supporting our community to thrive in the future.

For example, we embarked on a very ambitious Mental Health Scoping Project which will identify what gaps there are in the community, address clinical needs and provide contemporary services for all age groups in partnership with other likeminded organisations.

It sounds like you’ve got quite a transformation agenda, how will you see that come to fruition?
Having a sound strategic plan is obviously important, but I am also fortunate to have an innovative and supportive Board who have endorsed my vision. However, it’s our people who help realise vision. A strong organisation enables its current leaders, but also nurtures its future leaders.

Throughout my career, I’ve identified future leaders by their ability to generate new ideas and build an inspiring vision of the future for those around them. They tend to have a natural drive, are passionate about continuous improvement and have high levels of emotional intelligence, they can recognise their own strengths and weaknesses and lead by example.

They have integrity, and are respected by others for their fairness. They are “people-people,” my favourite quality for leaders who work in human services. They have a positive and motivational energy, and their enthusiasm is contagious.

I like to call it the “star” quality. Difficult to define, but easy to recognise.

How do you describe yourself as a leader?
People often describe my leadership as transformational, balancing visionary concepts, with sound strategy and a pragmatic approach to getting the work done operationally. I like to challenge the status quo to deliver and design better products, systems and outcomes to stimulate innovation and continuous quality improvement to ensure our clients are receiving the best care possible.

I pride myself on being authentic in what I do and my interactions with people. I think it’s important for any leader to regularly connect with their clients and employees at all levels to ensure the organisation remains relevant and responsive.

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
I believe leadership is one of the most courageous journeys a person can undertake. It will challenge you, inspire you and occasionally knock you back. It’s never a straight line, but what’s important is ensuring you’re learning along the way.

A leader will consistently invest in others by enabling them to achieve while intentionally challenging both themselves and others to pursue goals that stretch their skills. Their focus on the greater good, will see them collaborating and fostering interdependence.

They demonstrate and invest in emotional intelligence, regularly expressing compassion and empathy which I believe are underrated qualities across all industries, not just care services. While many assume being a boss means having all the answers, courageous leaders engage employees to share their ideas and solutions before jumping in. These days, people demand authenticity and transparency within the workplace.

What is the biggest challenge facing JewishCare?
Our biggest challenge is to remain contemporary in an everchanging society. We must be vigilant and be prepared to embrace innovation and new ways of delivering services. Dealing with technological disruption is as much an issue for the not-for-profit sector as it is for mainstream organisations.

There are opportunities for JewishCare to more effectively deliver on our strategic vision by being nimble and embracing technology. COVID has taught us to provide services very differently and align ourselves with the digital world.

Another challenge will be to maintain and grow our workforce on the frontline. We need to diversify our skills and be prepared to provide new clinical models of care to our most vulnerable. The expectations of customers, clients and communities are set to change in a world of consumer-directed funding and choice.