This blog is the first in a new series of conversations where we’ll explore the leadership journeys of alumni. If you know someone we should connect with, please send suggestions to email@example.com.
Maja Tait completed the Leadership Victoria program in 2006 and was awarded the Leadership Victoria Award for Accomplished Alumni in 2015. In addition to sharing her story, Maja offers a leadership challenge for everyone.
Please describe your current leadership role(s):
I’ve been the Mayor of Sooke since 2014, and on Council since 2008. Actually, it was Leadership Victoria that got me started. One of the community days was municipal governance...there were different MLAs, an MP, and city Councillors there, and we talked about the roles of government with the municipal election of 2005 approaching. We had an assignment to look at the various challenges across municipalities. If it wasn’t for the Community Leadership Development Program I don’t think I would’ve explored this path.
What important challenge have you helped solve in Greater Victoria?
In Sooke we are addressing the street population with our rural challenge to get folks out of the bushes, out of the forest, and to places where their needs can be met. It's not always me solving those problems. I can be good at shining the light on problems and bringing them forward to see what we need to do...what is the problem statement? Then empower those who have the knowledge to solve problems.
I convened community meetings as mayor to get stakeholders together to have conversations. We were working on this [supporting the street population], but when COVID hit it highlighted the need. It was easier to continue the work because the conversations were already happening. One [need] was improved access to physicians, and we advocated for more provincial money to expand clinic hours.
How has your Leadership Victoria experience supported your leadership journey?
I was feeling comfortable but needed something beyond what I was currently doing. Somehow I got info on Leadership Victoria, read it and thought ‘maybe this will help.’ Entering Leadership Victoria, I had to say ‘I’m putting my trust into something I don’t understand but I'll trust the process.’
I remember the retreat. The environment felt safe and it was what I was ready for in my life. We discussed servant leadership and that stuck with me. The program encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and do things I wouldn’t normally do.
The [project] groups were people I wouldn’t normally pick. We were driving each other crazy. How we approached a problem was different...we spent a lot of time with the team dynamic. My job [as mayor] is to draw out the best of everyone on Council. I would’ve had a much harder time without my Leadership Victoria experience.
What community leadership goals are you working toward in 2021?
The culture within the District of Sooke municipal staff. We have wonderful people with significant potential but we have some unfortunate morale concerns that are deeply embedded in the institution. I want to take apart the bureaucracy so they can take care of our community. I’ve been here the longest so I need to look at myself as well. I have no idea what the journey ahead will look like but I’m ready for it.
What help would you like from Leadership Victoria alumni?
To everyone in this year’s program [and alumni] – who will step forward and seek election in the 2022 municipal elections? Rather than help an initiative, take the initiative!
Thanks, Maya, for your willingness to connect and share!