Canada’s brightest business people define Mentorship and leadership in their own terms


The road to success is seldom an easy one, often marked by winding paths and unforeseen obstacles. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with a network of people who can guide you along the way.

Breakfast of Champions in Support of SickKids is an annual fundraising and networking event that provides young professionals the opportunity to meet some of Canada’s brightest “champions” over breakfast. In this special edition of our ongoing series, The Panel, we asked a few of the leaders that will be attending the event to provide the best advice they have on mentorship and leadership. Here’s what they had to say.

On mentorship

Janet Bannister

General Partner, Real Ventures



“I firmly believe that I can learn something from everyone I meet. I love the quote, ‘every man I meet is in some way my superior and in that I learn from him’. I am always looking out for things that I can learn from others, whether it is how they manage their life, how they run their business, or how they interact with others. In seeking a mentor, don’t look for the person who will take you under their wing and put you on the right path. Instead, learn from everyone you meet and from every experience, and then knit all of those things together in a unique way to create your own life path.”

Blake Hutcheson

President and CEO, Oxford Properties Group



“To me, a mentor is someone who listens without judgment, who provides ‘coaching’ as opposed to ‘directives’, and who helps a mentee unlock his or her own destiny because they truly understand that individual.  As a mentor I like to challenge people to be better, if not great, based on their capabilities, hopes and realistic dreams – not mine! Everyone deserves a mentor.  And all of us who have enjoyed the luxury of having one, should find a way to reciprocate.  It is a virtuous circle!”

Dr. Michael Apkon

President and CEO, The Hospital for Sick Children



“If I think about what most benefited me across each of [my mentors], whether with my grandfather who helped me prepare for my first employment experiences, or my most recent mentors working as a CEO, I’d say that the most valuable insight has been helping me see the perspectives of others – customers, patients, colleagues, my employer, and my employees – never by instructing but always by helping me see things from their shoes.”

Sami Siddiqui

President, Tim Horton’s Canada



“At Tim Hortons, developing people is fundamental to our culture – we look for humble and hard-working individuals who dream big. Mentorship plays a critical role in developing that talent as it helps people achieve their best, both professionally and personally. I’ve been fortunate to have a number of great mentors over the years. While they all had different approaches and styles, the common thread was that they were all willing to go out of their way to invest in me. Their vested interest in my development not only ensured that I was always growing, but it also motivated me to invest in myself to constantly improve. As I’ve transitioned into a leadership role, I now fully appreciate how strong mentorship has helped shape both my career and my life, and I strive to apply these same lessons every day with those around me.”

Aaron Zifkin

North American regional director, Airbnb



“For me, mentorship is essential to success, both personally and professionally, but it’s not something that just happens passively. I’ve benefited from incredible mentors throughout my life that I could rely on for advice or just be a sounding board, which is sometimes more helpful than any advice. For those looking for mentorship, my advice is to actively seek it and not to limit yourself to just one mentor. People love helping and sharing what they have learned throughout their lives and their careers, so don’t be afraid to ask someone you respect, “Will you be my mentor?” This will help form the mentor and mentee relationship beyond someone who just gives you advice from time to time. It’s important to find someone who will really care about your success. I’ve also found that having a larger group of advisers spanning several industries will give you different perspectives to consider and assist with important decisions throughout your life.”

On leadership

Mark McEwan

Celebrity chef



“There is no magic recipe for success in the restaurant industry, which is notoriously tough. If you aren’t deeply passionate about food, don’t do it. There are no shortcuts. When opening my own restaurants, I knew I had to lead by example. Building a solid team is about mutual respect and empowering people. When I notice talent, I will encourage that person to push themselves. I’m proud to say that the McEwan family has been home to some of Toronto’s top talents, like Chef Rob Gentile, Chef Claudio Aprile, Chef Craig Wong or Chef Ivana Racca – the list goes on! Micromanaging never works. If your team wants to be there, customers will too.”

Sarah Davis

President, Loblaw Companies Ltd.



“Strong leadership comes from recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses, and the talents of the people on your team. Once you understand that, you can ensure that your team has work that is challenging and engaging, allowing them to grow – personally and professionally – and contribute to the organization.”

Kathleen Taylor

Chair of the Board, RBC



“Successful leadership is often advanced through the mastery of behavioural traits. So whatever you do, be authentic; always show up as your best self – leading with your mind and your heart – to create trusting relationships with those around you.  And invest relentlessly in relationships. Learning about people with an empathetic spirit provides powerful insights into the motivation, engagement, and collaboration that achieves superior results. And finally, be a values-based leader, fostering followership with colleagues because of who you are, what you stand for, and what you believe in. This naturally leads to making a personal commitment to broad community service – giving back to help those most in need.”

Raquel Urtasan

Head, Uber Advanced Technologies Group Toronto



“When I think of a strong leader, I think of individuals who build each other up. No matter your industry, demonstrating support of your colleagues and finding ways to move the team forward, even if it doesn’t directly benefit your personal interests, is valuable and makes for a great leader. It’s also important that young professionals support community efforts when they’re able to do so.”

Robert Deluce

President and CEO, Porter Airlines



“I prefer dealing directly with people whenever possible. Your credibility is ultimately built through personal interactions. It may be necessary to plan these exchanges and meet people on their own turf where they feel most comfortable. If you are genuine, empathetic and true to your word, people recognize this and will want to work with you.”

To learn more about Breakfast of Champions in support of SickKids, head online to