Allergy and asthma are serious global health problems affecting all age groups. Their prevalence is increasing in many countries, especially among children. Although some countries have seen a decline in hospitalizations and deaths from these diseases, especially asthma, they are still imposing an unacceptable burden on health care systems, and on society through loss of productivity in the workplace and, especially for pediatric asthma, disruption to the family.
Faced a gap within delivering awareness about allergy, asthma, and related conditions, Tonya Winders, CEO of Allergy & Asthma Network sought an effective way to treat the patients diagnosed with these diseases. Her networks provide support to patients through outreach, education, advocacy, and research.
Go to allergyasthmanetwork.org to know their process of improving the quality of life of patients. We have highlighted the insights, the impression, and the inspiration through an interview with Tonya for brevity and clarity about the company.
Educational/professional background and highlights
Tonya: I have my Masters in marketing and business administration and have spent the past 25 years in healthcare—15 in pharma, medical device & diagnostics, and 10 leading Allergy & Asthma Network.
- Patient Advocate for GINA global asthma guidelines
- Patient Advocate for WHO GARD (respiratory diseases)
- President of Global Allergy & Airways Patient Platform (>70 patient organizations throughout the world)
- Published >50 peer-reviewed articles in the medical literature
- Speak internationally to thousands of healthcare providers and millions of patients each year
Growth against uncertaintiesTonya:
In March 2020, I listened to our community and recognized a unique opportunity to offer evidence-based, timely information regarding COVID. Consequently, over 150,000 people have tuned into our COVID webinars in the past two years. Moreover, over 3M have visited our COVID-19 Information Center. We have also held live events in community settings in underserved neighborhoods to address vaccine hesitancy and identify lung health issues.
We have experienced explosive growth over the past two years and our challenges revolve around the growing burden of immune and respiratory diseases and limited resources to address the unmet needs.
What is your call on women’s leadership?
Tonya: I often hear from women who do not fully accept their role as leaders. It is vital to help women fully own their leadership style even if it is different from traditional alpha male styles. Female leaders have been proven to be more likely to coach, mentor, and develop their direct reports than male leaders. They are true talent agents, using feedback and direction to help people grow. This enables them to unlock other people’s potential and promote effective cooperation on their teams. While we gravitate towards leaders who are self-focused and self-centered, the likelihood that such individuals can turn a group of people into a high-performing team is low. I believe women are uniquely gifted in the areas of nurturing, communicating, and supporting teamwork. Like society, it is important to take the best of both alpha and beta leadership strengths to effectively address the largest business and political challenges.
Do you think women hold more potential to excel economically and make the world a better place for living?
Tonya: The real problem is not a lack of competent females; it is too few obstacles for incompetent males, which explains the surplus of overconfident, narcissistic, and unethical people in charge. As a consequence, gender differences in leadership effectiveness (what it takes to perform well) are out of sync with gender differences in leadership emergence (what it takes to make it to the top). instead of encouraging women to act like male leaders (many of whom are incompetent), we should be asking men in power to adopt behaviors more commonly found in women. This would create a pool of better role models who could pave the way for both competent men and women to advance.
As women are believed to be a gentler part of humanity, how their leadership can heal both business and political corridors?
Tonya: Women are more likely to lead through inspiration, transforming people’s attitudes and beliefs, and aligning people with meaning and purpose (rather than through carrots and sticks), than men are. Since transformational leadership is linked to higher levels of team engagement, performance, and productivity, it is a critical path to improving leaders’ performance. If men spent more time trying to win people’s hearts and souls, leading with both EQ and IQ, as opposed to leaning more on the latter and nurturing a change in beliefs rather than behaviors, they would be better leaders. Furthermore, If the average male leader wants to improve their performance, they would do well to adopt a less self-centered style of leadership. Servant leadership and putting others ahead of yourself are second nature to most women.
We must stop falling for people who lean in when they lack the talents to back it up. In a logical world, we would promote people into leadership roles when they are competent rather than confident, vetting them for their expertise, track record, and relevant leadership competencies (e.g., intelligence, curiosity, empathy, integrity, and coachability). Women are generally less overconfident than men. This is good news because it enables them to understand how people see them and gives them the capacity to spot gaps between where they want to be and where they are. People who see themselves in a more critical way than others do are better able to prepare, even if it means overpreparing, and that’s a solid way to increase your competence and performance.
What are your contributions to the company?
Tonya: As the President & CEO of Allergy & Asthma Network, each day I aim to inspire my team to remember the “why?” behind the “what?” we do daily. Ultimately our goal is to end the needless death and suffering due to asthma, allergies, and related conditions like COVID or COPD through outreach, education, advocacy, and research.
What are the services/products which your company offers? Are they anywhere different from your competitors’ offerings?
Tonya: We drive awareness of these diseases via a multichannel approach including digital media, social media, and traditional media in addition to live events. Next, we offer evidence-based, patient-friendly education tools and programs targeted to patients, carers, healthcare providers, and policymakers. In our advocacy mission area, we work at state and federal levels to ensure the right treatments to the right patient at the right time with the fewest barriers. Finally, our work in research is to ensure the full community is represented in clinical trials and R&D. We support recruitment in trials and also conduct focus groups, advisory boards, and market surveys to bring the patient voice forward into the peer-reviewed literature.
Any plan to launch new products/services or advance existing offerings?
Tonya: If so, we would like to know about it. We will continue all of our current programs and expand our efforts in health equity via our Not One More Life Trusted Messengers program which will conduct lung health screenings in 10 underserved communities and offer telehealth coaching free of charge to over 1000 high-risk patients in 2022.
Quote to be highlighted
Focus on elevating others. This means being less transactional and more strategic in relationships with employees, and it also includes the openness to hiring people who are better than themselves, because your egos should be less likely to stand in the way.