Letter from the President - Leadership Discussion Sparks Inspiration

29 Oct 2018 12:58 PM | Chris Polhamus (Administrator)

For many years – 14 to be exact – Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana has been engaging with leaders in our region. I’ve been fortunate to have been a part of those conversations for the last five years, and each time I am able to share all that YLNI has to offer and how we can be working in partnership with our community, and I walk away with a spark of inspiration and a new piece of knowledge.  

Last night, eight of our YLNI board members and thirteen community leaders gathered in my office at Barnes & Thornburg with one purpose in mind - to discuss how YLNI can best serve the organizations in our region with their talent attraction, development and retention efforts. That spark I usually leave with, was a full-blown firework!

Our conversation was dynamic, engaging, connective and exciting! During our round table discussion we defined, as a group, what true leadership means. This is not the “climb over other people just to get to the top” idea of leadership. No, that’s not how any of us in that room define it. Leadership is not being the loudest person in the room; it isn’t being the biggest extrovert on the team; and it certainly is not being a person who exerts influence solely based on a position of power.

To us, leadership is being so humble that you naturally create an environment where others, regardless of differences, feel included, respected and valued. Humility makes you “teachable.” It helps you acknowledge that you are not perfect and you do not have all the answers. Last night, I watched every person in the room absorb these little nuggets of information from everyone else. Not one person walked in the door thinking he or she had all the answers, and every person left the room with new ideas and information. Leadership is being so vulnerable that the people around you want to follow you because they feel connected to you on a “real” level. Good leaders exert influence because of who they are and their relationship with their team. Vulnerability promotes empathy and humanizes you. It takes courage to be vulnerable and admit you aren’t perfect.

We began last night at a place of not knowing all of the answers as we talked about the barriers organizations face when it comes to talent attraction and retention. How do we attract quality talent to the area? How do we keep them engaged in work and their community? The ideas were flowing and we have a lengthy list of next steps, which leads me to this; leadership is being accountable to yourself and to your team. Good leaders accept responsibility for outcomes, both good and bad. They inspire trust in their teams because those who work with them know that failure is nothing more than a learning opportunity, and any opportunity to grow is a win. Good leaders also hold their team accountable to put forth their best effort for the greater good of the entire team. Accountability breeds inclusivity.

Going into last night, I knew that the twenty-one of us there had a common interest, but I did not know that all of us would become a team. The passion for this region, our talent, developing leaders, and making Northeast Indiana a place where people want to be bonds us. We still don’t have all the answers, but what we do have is a team of leaders who exhibit humility, vulnerability, courage, and accountability. My expectations run high - stay tuned for what’s next!

Thank you to the following community leaders for joining us:

Marshall White – Unity Performing Arts Center
Aaryn Eady - Unity Performing Arts Center
Nelson Peters – Allen County Commissioner
Ron Dick – Design Collaborative
Ronald Elsenbaumer – Purdue Fort Wayne
Ryan Fox – Ash Brokerage
Jeanne Wickens – Parkview
Mark Robison – Brotherhood Mutual
Mike Galbraith – Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership
Mike Cahill – Ruoff Mortgage
Bob Vitoux – Ambassador Enterprises
Julie Inskeep – Journal Gazette
John Hopkins - - Sweetwater Sound 


Savannah M. Robinson
YLNI Board President

“Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.”- Reed Markham




Email: info@ylni.org
P.O. Box 10774
Fort Wayne, IN  46853

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