Nicolino Frate is the Director General of the Communications Branch of Shared Services Canada (SSC), Government of Canada. After starting shis professional career in the financial sector, he joined the public sector in 2007, taking on increasing leadership roles within various government organizations and working in a variety of areas such as policy, programs and internal services. Nick has always advocated for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. During his time as a public servant, he led a LGBTQ2 Initiatives Team which resulted in the successful launch of Positive Space; the creation of a network for LGBTQ2 employees, allies and supporters; and the celebration of LGBTQ2 events like the International Day of Pink, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and Pride Month. Additionally, Nick was involved in the English LGBTQ2 community in Montreal, working to promote healthy sexuality and a positive queer image.
Nick is the proud recipient of the 2016 Governor General of Canada Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) for his efforts in advancing diversity and inclusion and positively impacting the LGBTQ2 community by striving to eliminate intolerance and creating an atmosphere of acceptance.
RAHM: Nick, this was your first time being a jury member at RAHM. What were your thoughts when finding out about RAHM and why did you decide to accept the invitation?
Nick: Getting to be a part of RAHM as a jury member was an incredibly unique and fulfilling experience. It was great to see so many inspirational young professionals challenge themselves and share their personal and professional journeys. When I first found out about this contest, I thought it was an important initiative and a wonderful opportunity to give the next generation of LGBTQ2 leaders a platform to showcase their knowledge and expertise. I knew I had to be a part of it. As a both a leader and a member of the LGBTQ2 community, I felt as though my experience would allow me to connect with the participants. I chose to accept the invitation not only because I felt like I had something to offer them, but also because I knew that spending time with these brilliant young minds would be very rewarding.
RAHM: The RAHM Contest crowns an LGBT+ Leader as the winner, chosen by the group and the jury members. What would you say are the qualities of an “Authentic Leader”?
Nick: Authentic leadership is all about incorporating who you are into your leadership, which takes a great deal of openness and self-awareness. To me, an authentic leader is one who is not afraid to stray from a “traditional style” of leadership. Instead, they focus on adopting strategies that are true to who they are. By developing your own approach to leadership, you are able to carve out your own path and truly creating meaningful change in your area of work. To be an authentic leader you have to openly reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and strive to continuously learn and develop your skills. It’s imperative for an authentic leader to demonstrate emotional intelligence and not only lead with their head, but with their heart. Show people who you are through your work! Allow yourself to be vulnerable and make genuine connections with the teams you are working with. This will allow you to not only feel fully engaged in your work but in your life.
RAHM: During the Contest you hosted one of our Round-Tables with the topic “Owning your career”. What lies behind this headline that made you want to have an open discussion about it with the contestants?
Nick: It’s important to recognize that there is no set timeline for reaching your full potential. Everyone takes different paths to success and what may work for someone else may not work for you. You have to truly take ownership of your career. It’s all about finding what works best for you and what fulfills you, while always staying true to yourself. I wanted to share this with the contestants because it’s important for them to decide what kind of leaders they want to be and what difference they aspire to make. If they are passionate about something they should try to figure out how to incorporate that into their leadership. It will help drive them and stand out as thought leaders in their area of work.
RAHM: As well as your job, you put a great amount of effort into advocating against intolerance while trying to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. In 2016 you received the Governor General of Canada Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) for your efforts in advancing diversity and inclusion. You are also the first LGBTQ2 champion for Shared Services Canada. What keeps you motivated? What are the main reasons that drive you?
Nick: I have always been motivated by trying to create an inclusive and diverse workforce. There is nothing more important to me than to have team members who are actually different and have different ways of thinking. Whether it is in the workplace or in my everyday life, I believe in creating safe spaces where people feel accepted and engaged. It is only by creating safe spaces that you can foster innovating ideas and truly challenge your way of thinking. It is the different perspectives that allow a team to grow and nurture, and I want to encourage that as much as possible. Most of all, I want to help create a world that is safe for my son and where he can feel accepted for who he is and whatever he chooses to be. Setting an example for him is one of my biggest motivating factors.
RAHM: Do you have any specific tips or pieces of advice for the future generation of LGBT+ leaders who have just started their professional career?
Nick: I think my biggest piece of advice to any young professionals is to not shy away from seeking mentorship. All the best leaders have them. Finding a mentor that encourages you and inspires you will help you to navigate your professional development. In addition to a mentor, find yourself a coach; someone who is in your direct field or to whom you report to directly. This will help you excel in your role. Remember: you are only as good as the current role you are in. Make the effort to truly understand all aspects of your job. The last piece of advice I would like to give to the future LGBTQ2 leaders is to celebrate the diversity you bring to an organization! Show people who you are and don’t be afraid to find creative links to tie in things you are passionate about into your work. Not only will this make you feel more connected to your work but will inspire others in the process.
Interview conducted by Laura Homma