Igniting the Fire of Leadership: A Story of Development from Within

About a year after Tammy Roberts began working as a housekeeper in the newly opened Village of Aspen Lake in Windsor, one of the neighbourhood coordinators (NCs) there announced she was having a baby. Peter Brouwers, director of environmental services at the time, thought Tammy was the perfect person to take over the position during the maternity leave.  

Tammy Roberts (left) is proud of the path that led her from a position as a housekeeper at Aspen Lake to the general manager of the Village at St. Clair. 
Tammy Roberts (left) is proud of the path that led her from a
position as a housekeeper at Aspen Lake to the
general manager of the Village at St. Clair. 

 “I told him 'no way,' ” she recalls, “but he told me to apply for it and see what happens, so I did and I got it.” She was, it turns out, the perfect fit. As vice-president of operations Joanne Potts recalls, “it was obvious right from day one that the team members followed her and she was an informal leader.”

Tammy was invited to join the leadership team at the annual Schlegel Villages operational planning retreat that first year and Joanne, the village’s general manager at the time, says Tammy was transformed there. Schlegel Villages as an organization is committed to growing its leadership team members from within, and Tammy “was driven to find a way to grow and lead in the organization,” Joanne says. “The fire had been lit in her.”

When that maternity leave term was nearly complete, a permanent NC position opened up and Tammy transitioned smoothly into that role. When The Village at St. Clair across town was preparing to open a couple years later, Tammy wanted to experience a new village opening from the very beginning, and she was one of the first NCs brought on board. She continued to excel in that role, always finding the right balance between supporting her team and supporting the residents (or neighbours as St. Clair prefers) and families.  

“Tammy has demonstrated time and time again that she is committed to service first and title second,” Joanne says. “She works tirelessly to make sure her team is the best it can be; she is passionate about caring for residents and will do anything for them. She is one of the most authentic leaders I know.”

As Tammy recalls the trajectory of her career over the last eight years, she’s sitting behind the general manager’s desk in The Village at St. Clair. It’s mid-December and she’s been in her new role for little more than a week. Phones are ringing, people are buzzing in and out through the open door and her trademark smile, broad and bright, suggests she’s taking the pace of her latest position in stride.

She’s seen many of the challenges that can occur in daily village life thanks to her experience as a neighbourhood coordinator and as a housekeeper, and she knows that above all else, the residents, families and team members she serves are the most important focus. That knowledge, she hopes, will serve her well as general manager.

 “It all comes down to just being that team player,” she says. When the team is supported and strong, there’s a “domino effect” that translates directly into the care of her neighbours. The need for her support doesn’t change because she is no longer the direct team lead as NC; as general manager the call for support simply broadens to more people, and she’s proud to be able to offer it. Though always humble, she’s proud of the path she walked from her early days at Aspen Lake to today, and thankful she took advantage of the educational opportunities and trust offered to her.

As Schlegel Villages continues to grow into the future, opportunities for hundreds of new leaders will arise, and they have much to learn from Tammy’s experience, Joanne says.

 “Take every chance to grow in your leadership experience, regardless of your role,” Joanne advises potential leaders. “Tammy has taken every role or opportunity to learn that has come her way and she never let fear of failure stop her.”