Spotlight on the winner of the 2022 Excellence in Leadership Awards: Selina Lerma

Selina Lerma is a lab supervisor at UW Health in Belvidere, IL. Lerma was nominated by her peers for the 2022 Excellence in Leadership Awards and received a Special Merit Award. Lerma shared with Laboratory manager insight into her journey to becoming a lab leader, lessons she learned along the way, and advice for others in leadership and management roles.

Q: Can you briefly talk about your background and what you do in your current role?

A: I started my leadership career as the second eldest of five siblings. I guided them through many childhood challenges, i.e. chickenpox, cuts/scrapes, roller skates, how to ride a bike, sleepovers, etc. I was 16 when I got my first real job at Baskin Robbins. I quickly became a primary “key holder/cash keeper” there. After graduating from university, I worked in different hospitals/clinics. In all the jobs that I have held, I have held a management position. I have about 28 years of leadership experience. Currently, I lead two amazing lab teams at UW Belvidere Medical Center and the UW Regional Cancer Center, where I am extremely grateful to be able to work with such an amazing group of people.

Selina Lerma

Laboratory manager

Q: What was your reaction when you won this award and what does winning mean to you?

A: At first I thought the email I received saying I had won was spam until I saw that my teams were included in the email. I’m so glad I didn’t forward the email to our email security team, haha. Shock set in right after that, followed by heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for the recognition.

Q: What do you enjoy most about Laboratory managerthe offers/content?

A: I think it’s amazing that Laboratory manager hosts a leadership summit focused on the important challenges facing the lab today. I think there will be valuable lessons to be learned from the Summit.

Q: What resources or people did you learn your leadership and management skills from?

A: I learned from the best of the best, a leader of leaders. I was blessed with an exceptional mentor early on who taught me valuable leadership skills and showed me the importance of being a good leader. I also continue to train myself by attending webinars, seminars, taking courses, reading articles and learning from other leaders.

Q: In your opinion and experience, what is the most important quality or trait a good leader should have?

A: Having empathy or “the ability to understand other people’s feelings” is most important to me. Have empathy and remember that people are not just workers here to do a job; that they are human beings who spend a considerable part of their life at work helping others. I want to help others to help others through understanding.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

A: I enjoy spending time with my children, my family and my friends. I enjoy going on bike rides with them, hiking and exploring nature. I love to cook, but my family would say don’t quit your day job when it comes to the quality of my cooking.

Q: What do you think are common misconceptions about good leadership and good management?

A: Some people say 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 enhance your individual strengths/qualities that make you stand out. You can focus on resources that will help you improve your leadership skills. You can always practice and learn to become a better leader.

Q: What is the best management and/or leadership advice you can share with our readers?

A: Nobody is perfect. You will fail and make mistakes, guaranteed. Learn from failures, own up to mistakes, humbly admit when you’re wrong, take time to reflect, and view missteps as a learning opportunity. It will help you become the leader you want to follow.

Lerma and the other Leadership Excellence Award winners will receive their plaques at the Lab Manager Leadership Summit, taking place in Baltimore, MD, May 16-18. To learn more about this valuable event and to register, visit:

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