“What difference does leadership make” may sound like a rhetorical question, but there’s value in understanding how our community continues to advance and improve opportunities for residents and businesses. To go beyond simply wanting something to making it happen requires purposeful decision making and a broad view of the impact. Working with Valley Leadership, which our Guest Editor Neil Giuliano describes as Arizona’s premier leadership development organization, In Business Magazine explores the dynamics of leadership that is shaping our community by speaking with a few alumni of the Valley Leadership Institute program.
“The biggest thing I learned about leadership from my Valley Leadership program was that there isn’t one monolithic leadership style that has to be utilized in order to be successful,” shares Nicole Stanton, office managing partner of Quarles & Brady LLP. “The leaders we met came from a myriad of backgrounds and had very divergent styles. They shared one thing in common, though — they were servant leaders, be it in business, government or the community in general.”
They all came in with different viewpoints, too, which is what Tom Egan, president and CEO of Foundation for Senior Living, recalls as something he found most surprising. “When you’re taking a large group of people and mixing in people from the business sector and nonprofit and then government — we’ve all had a variety of experience that got us to where we are, and the way those leaders think about their business is all different. None are better or worse than the others, but when you put us together and you start thinking about, collectively, the lessons we can learn from each other — I found it was really surprising.”
Viewpoints aren’t, of course, the only points of difference. “The work that our Valley Leadership class did with emergenetics (personality profiling) made me a better leader in that it helped me better understand that not everyone brings the same strengths to a team, but that all of those strengths are valuable to completing a project,” says Stanton, noting that her firm does a great deal of work in teams. “Moreover, even if you don’t naturally demonstrate a particular strength, it doesn’t mean that you can’t adapt to compensate for that.”
Hans Klose, owner of Endeavor Holdings LLC, relates, “What was a bit of a surprise to me in terms of what I took from my Valley Leadership program, and what I learned from experience following the program, was how much of leadership has to come from the heart.” In fact, he observes, “Programs can teach us about matters to be dealt with, and they can give us advice on how proceed with those dealings, but unless there is a sincere personal desire and vision, the best any program can do is to teach a person how to command.”
What attracted him to Valley Leadership was its commitment to expose individuals to issues facing the metropolitan Phoenix area. “I’m an enrolled member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and I grew up on the Gila River and Salt River reservations. However, I appreciated the modern position of the Native American communities within the larger Phoenix community, and I was eager to learn more about subjects with which I was not intimately familiar.”
Learning about the community becomes a starting point because, as John DeWulf, shareholder with Coppersmith Brockelman, observes, “Leadership comes in all forms — and sometimes it is most effective when it comes in response to an urgent need.”
Relating that she went into the Valley Leadership Institute program at a time when she was very focused on being an accomplished and valued leader within the organization where she was employed, National Bank of Arizona vice chairman Deborah Bateman says, “Valley Leadership opened my heart and my mind with the opportunities to lead within our community …. and allowed me to understand that leadership was not something I turned on when I went to work, it was who I was. And, because I possessed the ability to lead, I could bring value to not just my business, but my industry and my community.”
With heightened awareness of the value giving back to the community, learning more about the issues, helping others to have access to information and opportunities, and the value of connections, Bateman has served on more than 30 not-for-profit boards, and chaired countless fundraising luncheons, galas, and other events since completing the Valley Leadership program. “My community involvement is a way of life for me now,” she says, crediting VL with having “empowered me to fully live my life and leverage my professional standing to support and help our community.”
Indeed, actions at the individual and community level can intersect. And Stanton explains that they should. “The best business leaders do not operate in isolation from their community at large. As a business leader, it is critical to invest time in the community, to give back, and to create a connectedness for your organization. Not only is this the right thing to do as a leader, but the benefits to your organization will return to you ten-fold.”
But it takes more than a willingness to go beyond one’s own business or even industry. Citing her profession as example, Stanton says, “As lawyers, we often get comfortable circulating within the legal community and don’t spend enough time in the non-legal world. The Valley Leadership experience provides such an excellent opportunity to learn about the needs in the community — particularly with nonprofits — that the legal industry may be able to help with.
“Most recently, on behalf of Quarles & Brady, I signed the UNITY Pledge from One Community in support of fully inclusive non-discrimination policies in the workplace, housing and public accommodations for all Arizonans, including gay and transgender people. When I signed the pledge, Quarles & Brady became the first large law firm in Arizona to do so because it was the right thing to do — a charge we and I wanted to lead. Not only was signing on to the pledge the right thing to do, it is consistent with the position of many of our clients who had already signed the pledge, demonstrating our shared commitment to diversity in the Valley.”
And Tyler Butler, CEO of 11Eleven Consulting LLC, describes with pride the project her group brought to fruition as part of their VL training, ensuring that youth who would otherwise lack access to arts programming have the opportunity to learn and grow through a mobile program. “Art4All lives on today and continues to help countless kids through introductions to the arts,” she says, noting, “The most impactful component of how VL impacts the overall community can be seen through the “pay it forward” projects that groups create in order to improve our community.“
Understanding Issues: Awareness and Connectedness
Part of Valley Leadership’s legacy is due to the type of participant it attracts: individuals who are interested in learning about their community and how they could step up and serve. But another element is purposely added to the mix. Noting that those individuals come from a cross-section of professions, including business, government and nonprofit, Christy Moore, Valley Leadership President and CEO, explains, “We select our class to ensure each of the professional sectors is well-represented in our flagship program — Valley Leadership Institute.”
Moore explains that VL’s founders built the organization to ensure the Valley would have a strong pipeline of leaders by offering multi-generational leadership programs for youth, high-potential and proven leaders. Key to that, since Day 1, is to make sure the proven leaders in the Institute program understand the complex issues Arizona is faced with.
True understanding requires a broad perspective, and DeWulf shares, “Valley Leadership familiarized me with the Valley’s important government, for-profit and nonprofit organizations. I met and communicated with their leadership, and learned what their goals were and how they executed on those goals. I also refined my ability to productively work with others, as the team approach to supporting community causes expanded my comfort zone in many respects — yet in an effective and creative way. This informed my approach as to how to effectuate change in the community and provided me a network of contacts to help.”
To that last point, Tyrone Benson, Ph.D., quality and reliability research and development engineer with Intel Corporation, states, “The networking was priceless.” During the class, he met other people who shared his interest in education and STEM, and he says, “We have continued to work together on education issues. I have called on them to speak to students about what they do, and I have returned the favor by attending STEM-centric events and efforts they are driving. I have also continued to work with class members in the public and nonprofit sectors as well by providing financial and non-financial assistance.”
He adds, “What I have realized is that having a broad and deep network helps me to connect people to resources when they need it. It is through these connections that work — big and small — gets done.”
But coming together on a shared goal does not necessarily happen naturally. Nor even easily. Says Egan, “If you just surround yourself with people who think just like you, you never see the other ideas. When you start mixing in age diversity, gender, culture, et cetera, you look at the world through a different lens. By putting us together, it makes the team stronger, decisions stronger.
“Initially, you may think you would never be friends with that type of individual, because you never crossed paths with them,” Egan continues. “But by putting people into a long-term program where you really get to know people on a deep level, you can certainly see the world through different people’s eyes. What we do got stripped away; there was opportunity to have dialogue to find common ground.”
As DeWulf puts it, “We are all connected — in ways that are not always apparent at first.”
In this respect, the diversity of the leadership class also has an impact, which Paul Johnson describes of his experience as “huge!” Johnson, CEO of Redirect Health and former mayor of Phoenix, says, “I had the opportunity to network with incredibly smart and talented people across a huge span of industries. More importantly, I learned how to build relationships, how to make an impact on any group (even in my 20s), and how to nurture and direct my desire to make a lasting and tangible difference in my community.” The youngest member to participate in the group to-date, he says, “It provided an invaluable understanding of issues facing the Valley, which intensified my desire to help determine the direction of our community. I ran for City Council a year later.”
Recalling a lot of personality testing, Egan says one stands out to him still to this day. “For one exercise, they put us in a group of people who think just like us. And it’s really easy to get to an answer and come to consensus. And then they put us in a mixed-up group. It’s harder to get things done but the end product is more thought-out and thorough.” The lesson he took to heart: “Someone who may be very visionary but not good at the detail needs the detail person to help that vision come to life — or it’s just a nice idea that never gets off the ground.”
“We learned a lot of leadership imperatives,” Benson says, “but one of my biggest ‘ah-ha’ moments came when discussing how to motivate teams to accomplish big objectives. One of our course books was Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It by Kouzes and Posner, and one of the most impactful take-aways from that book is ‘threat, power, position, and money do not earn commitment; they earn compliance. And compliance produces adequacy, not greatness. Only high credibility earns intense commitment.’ This idea of why leaders need and how we get commitment really impressed upon me the importance of maintaining credibility and creating a shared vision with my team. This idea transformed the way I look at engaging teams.
“Another leadership imperative we learned during VLI was the importance of being authentic and bringing our whole selves to the task. This opened the door for me to figure out a way to use the new leadership skill with other skills, like Design Thinking, that I have learned as an engineer. Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to problem solving that seeks to delight the customer.”
Design Thinking is now, in fact, being incorporated into the VLI program through a new strategic partnership with ASU, according to Moore. “This year, ASU will be facilitating design theory thinking for three of the nine program dates: infrastructure, education, healthcare. What that means for the class members is, we are turning to them to come up with creative solutions for Arizona’s most complex issues.” This is part of another new approach VL is implementing: continuing the Institute as a program for proven leaders, and launching Valley Leadership Advance as a program for high-potential leaders. “We are creating separate classroom experiences for high-potential leaders and proven leaders so we can better hone the curriculum for those audiences,” Moore explains.
Continuing the mission of VL’s founders to be a pipeline for leadership and to make sure our top talent stays here, Moore says, “We really believe that we’re part of the ‘brain gain’ solution and that we’re able to keep top talent here because they truly understand their community and how it works, and become civically engaged and more invested in making Arizona their home.”
Valley Leadership Grads Lead to Change the Community
Impact Is a Two-Way Street
Director of Premier Wealth Management
National Bank of Arizona
Valley Leadership Institute class 16
By becoming a leader in our community, I actually created value for my organization, and over the years my organization appreciated my engagement in the community so much that they sponsored me in all my community activities. My visibility and commitment to the community then also attracted individuals to me, who then wanted to also be part of the products and services that my organization offered. Each fed the other.
As this year’s chairman of the Phoenix Suns Charities, which grants in excess of $1 million each year to not-for-profits throughout Arizona, I have found that my impact as a leader in our community coupled with my professional leadership position and my knowledge of our community and its issues and opportunities provide a solid foundation to lead and create value.
Building on a Shared Vision
Tyrone Benson, Ph.D.
Quality and Reliability Research and Development Engineer
Valley Leadership Institute class 32
Outside of my day job, I am also actively involved in STEM literacy, especially with pre-college students and their parents. Since my VLI experience concluded, I have spoken with Valley Teen Leadership participants and thousands of underserved high school students from Tolleson to Mesa about STEM and how STEM will impact their lives and livelihood.
Additionally, I have helped found initiatives like Start with STEM, the Dreamality Conference, and Real Engagement through Active Philanthropy (REAP) to support career readiness in other ways. Start with STEM was founded by a small team of Intel employees to persuade parents and students to take another look at STEM as a career option and as a way to change the world. The Dreamality Conference is a career exposition and planning conference for high school students in my hometown of Alexander City, Ala. REAP is a male giving circle that is part of the Black Philanthropy Initiative at the Arizona Community Foundation, with career readiness one of its main focus areas. Each of these initiatives started with a shared vision and has grown because others have bought into and been inspired by what we can accomplish together.
For the Collective Good
11Eleven Consulting LLC
Valley Leadership Institute class 35
The knowledge I gained through VL allowed me to navigate the Valley on another level, enabling me to launch my own consulting firm. Through my affiliation with VL, I was able to connect with other corporate responsibility professionals. We have shared best practices, contacts, innovative program ideas and created a community of allies. Working together, we have all experienced greater success at each of our businesses because of the open sharing and opportunity to learn from one another. Through VL, I deepened my knowledge regarding ways to approach corporate citizenship, such as employing the power of engaging stakeholders from all parts of the business – from the CEO and C suite to the sales teams and facilities managers – in order to craft a well-rounded outreach program that represents the totality of the org.
I have utilized my leadership training to aid countless nonprofits and to expand corporate philanthropy efforts for several socially conscientious companies. I helped launch a new program through AWEE called SheLEADS, a program that helps professionals — selected through a competitive application — to develop business plans and professional skills, and expand their networks.
By developing strong leaders locally, we are facilitating economic growth and supporting entrepreneurs as well.
Collaboration Moves the Needle
Valley Leadership Institute class 10
On the community level, I have helped groups that have supported the arts, urban renewal and at-risk youth. I have also served in leadership roles, including now with Social Venture Partners Arizona, where I oversee the Education Affinity Committee. I continue to reach out to members of Class X and utilize what I learned at Valley Leadership.
For the last few years, I have headed up SVPAZ’s efforts to help public education in Phoenix. In that role, I have used collaboration and networking skills that Valley Leadership helped develop to involve other organizations and individuals, including Valley Leadership members, to help. During the program, you learn how collaboration can move a city, organization or charitable effort forward.
As a business litigator with Coppersmith Brockelman, I see my main job as helping others solve problems. I continue to use connections I made and knowledge I gained at Valley Leadership to creatively do that. For instance, diversity is an important component of each program. Operating in a diverse team enables you to better see issues from different viewpoints. That’s a critical skill set in the legal world.
You Can’t Do It Alone
President and CEO
Foundation for Senior Living
Valley Leadership Institute class 35
I learned how Phoenix works — things you have your eyes opened to that you don’t know exist, amazing things that people in our community are doing. Water is a case in point. People might take the attitude of “Oh, we live in a desert” and assume we have no leadership to contribute in water issues. But I learned we are really good at managing our water — better than a lot of cities that get a lot more rainfall than we do.
Phoenix is a really big small town. By meeting people from other industries — in nonprofit and business and government community — the town gets a lot smaller. It’s amazing to me how many people I’ve met because of the new friends and colleagues I developed through Valley Leadership. When you’re an adult (post-college), when do you have the opportunity to meet 40 or 50 new, driven leaders in a community, other than by participating in a program like this?
It makes me a better leader, run a better organization, and be a better community steward.
Impacting an Industry
Valley Leadership Institute class 6
The best entrepreneurs identify a problem and build a solution to fix it. Understanding the issues of the community led me to focus on one of the biggest problems facing business owners today: healthcare. My work with Valley Leadership helped me to understand that, given the nature of the problem, we must disrupt the entire industry or we cannot address the real needs of employers and employees who need affordable, effective healthcare.
There is a real problem in the healthcare industry, and it has having a devastating effect on business owners. Today, healthcare makes up 17.5 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product, and some economists forecast it will reach 23 percent within a decade. Under no circumstances is this sustainable.
Right now — for a very short window of time — we can use the free market and the innovation it cultivates to disrupt the healthcare industry. Now is the time to reduce costs dramatically and increase services — to disrupt hospitals, insurance companies and big pharma through the same type of innovation that has allowed companies like Uber to disrupt transportation.
Vision and Perspective
Endeavor Holdings LLC
Valley Leadership Institute class 22
One of the departments under my oversight was the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Economic Development Department. My family, and specifically my mother, helped pioneer many of the concepts of commercial leasing that are now somewhat common on Native American lands. I had that knowledge, but given the location of the Salt River Community in the Phoenix area and the booming real estate situation of the 1990s and 2000s, I was faced with a nearly overwhelming situation of developers proposing every type of concept for a wide variety of land sizes and locations. My acquired perspective and connections from Valley Leadership helped me discern groups and proposals that may be more realistic and capable.
Naturally, I also had to take the needs and desires of the Indian landowners and the greater tribal community into serious consideration. I had some natural instincts, but I have to say that some concepts I learned from Valley Leadership, like servant leadership, really resonated with me and aided me in my internal deliberations. Ultimately, during my tenure as community development director, more than 500 acres of land were placed under long-term lease.
I have continued to play a role in addressing the changing economics and concepts related to Native American lands in Salt River, throughout Arizona, and even nationally in my participation on the Indian Land Tenure Foundation Board of Directors.
More Leadership … More Leaders
Office Managing Partner
Quarles & Brady LLP
Valley Leadership Institute class 29
There’s no doubt that I have relied on my experience in Valley Leadership in my role as managing partner at Quarles & Brady. On a personal level, drawing upon my experience in Valley Leadership has made me more aware of my blind spots as a leader and to surround myself with a support network, mentors and advisors who can help me minimize those blind spots.
The experience further solidified my belief that every person should be involved in their community in some way. Leading Quarles’ Phoenix office, it has been a goal of mine to make sure that our lawyers are each involved in the community in some way — big or small. It makes us better lawyers; it makes us a stronger firm.
Part of leadership is being able to mentor more leaders, not followers. Certainly, a Valley Leadership graduate could not leave their year-long program without having a reinforced commitment to cultivating leadership wherever it can be found and in whatever form it can be found.