I would like to thank the panel of Executive Directors who came out to our Humanics class this past Monday, especially since they took the time to come out during Thanksgiving week. The panel included: Gary Pigg from the Discovery Center, Kelly Lilles from Catholic Charities, Kent Karsevar from Ronald McDonald House Charities, Coreen Campos from Focus Forward, Frank Delgado from Arte Americas, and Chris Collins from West African Vocational Schools.
While there were many things I learned from the panelists, an insightful take-away I had was when the panelists explained many of them felt like they weren’t prepared at the beginning to take on the position of Executive Director. Kelly Lilles and Coreen Campos explained how they felt if they had had the position 2 years later than when they first started, they would’ve felt more prepared. Nevertheless, they utilized their experience to demonstrate to us the importance of striving for things we’re initially uncomfortable doing. While we may not feel prepared for a position or may doubt our capabilities, it’s important to move out of our comfort zone to grow.
Another key take-away from the panelists involved the discussion between the difference between management and leadership. Kelly Lilles described how when you’re managing you’re taking more of an active position in the organization. When you’re in a leadership position, you’re focused on gathering input, ideas, and getting the right people on the bus, as well as the wrong people off the bus. Leaders encourage and motivate others to become involved and don’t necessarily always dictate what to do. Kent Karsevar described management as following the legal policies at the business level and associated leadership with receiving input. He described the idea of a bottom-to-top leadership where more people are involved in the process of decision making. Bottom-up leadership is more effective and leads to less resistance to change/ideas if everyone’s involved. I also liked Chris Collins definition of leadership where he described leading as the actions you take in fulfilling the organization’s mission. If what you do isn’t fulfilling the mission, leadership is deciding then what changes need to be made to fulfill the mission.
Lastly another quote from Kelly Lilles that I really resonated with involved her response to the qualities she looks for in someone she’s interviewing to work for her organization. She mentioned how her mentor influenced her thinking when he said he’d hire a volunteer above someone with a 4.0 GPA since it demonstrated the person gives of themselves. This statement really resonated with me because as many other Humanics scholars, we’ve decided to pursue a career in the CBO sector because we want to give of ourselves to our community. Giving is something that is close to Humanics scholars hearts and is more than a hobby to us. Giving is a part of our life and the Humanics program has helped us grow so that we can be leaders in the service to humanity.