Good morning! I have been compiling this column for the last six months. I have really enjoyed interviewing and “picking the brains” of some of our most interesting and successful leaders our region has to offer.
You might say they are the “Best of the Region,” to steal a phrase. Their insight and perspective has been fascinating, unique and compelling.
In addition, I wanted the readers of this space to be able to consume examples of real-world leadership and be able to apply these lessons and models to their organizations and lives. In this week’s edition of this column, I am sharing some of the “highlights” from the first six months!
Please enjoy from Ronda Lehman, CEO of Mercy Health-St. Rita’s:
Matt: What is the difference between managing and leading?
Ronda: So there are a lot of good people who can manage. Managing requires a good understanding of process and function and operations. When you cross over into the world of leadership, it requires a deeper level of strategies and helping your team solve problems and helping them to excel at their position. Leadership is also about getting people in the right roles and then getting out of their way.
Matt: Why healthcare for you?
Ronda: I would say faith-based healthcare for me aligns with the values that I bring. I love people and love interacting with people. I recognize that being with people in healthcare allows me to have an impact with people at the most joyful, the most vulnerable, sometimes the saddest moments of people’s lives. It allows you to have a deep connection with people. It felt fundamental, and at my core, and healthcare allowed me to bring my faith as well.
Matt: What advice would give people entering the workforce?
Ronda: I believe there is such value at proving yourself at that first opportunity. I am goal-oriented. I love goals. I write down goals and work toward goals. Sometimes people want to skip so many steps that are highly valuable. Bloom where you are planted! I started as an intern here in the pharmacy.
Matt: How was your experience with Allen Lima Leadership Program?
Ronda: I really enjoyed the ALL Program. As someone who grew up in Allen County, I thought I had seen a lot. However, going through the program, I was blown away! It’s life-changing to see all the businesses and see firsthand behind the scenes and see our impact globally and around our state and region. I absolutely loved getting to meet the people in the class. It creates a bond and tremendous amount of respect for all of the wonderful things happening in Allen County.
Phil Buell, CEO of Superior Credit Union:
Matt: What is the leadership philosophy with your growth and geographic footprint?
Phil: It gets a little more difficult the bigger you get. When we were smaller, it was very easy for me to visit all the branches once every couple of weeks. Today it is once a quarter. In most cases, it is not me going in and telling, “I need you to do this and that,” I am asking what they need from me and how I can help get them the resources they need.
Matt: Let’s go deeper on that.
Phil: I am a big fan of delegation. You have to have people you can delegate to, and you have to have employees that assume that responsibility. We have a very good team that does that, and I believe they appreciate this. One doesn’t always want to be told what to do. They want to make decisions. Our employees make really good decisions.
Matt: How do you hire your leaders in the company?
Phil: Many come from our entry-level positions. I really like to identify those individuals and bring them through the system. I would reference Melanie Weldy (chief operating officer) as an example. She hired in as a teller. She is very bright, smart, worked hard in every position and worked her way through internal auditing, accounting manager, CFO and now COO. She excelled in every single spot.
Matt: What is your advice for young people going into the workforce?
Phil: I think the key is just roll up your sleeves and get in and learn as much as you can. I go back to my American General days. I started out at $7 an hour out of college. You worked long days, and I was able to pay my rent and car payment. The education I got from those first jobs and taking on additional responsibility and doing what I was asked to do was key. I will always ask young people, have you put yourself in a position to earn a promotion?
Angie Clark, retired banking executive:
Matt: What advice would you give young people today who want to be vice president right out of school?
Angie: I do think you have to have patience. I believe you have to find some mentors, some people you really respect, and watch what they are doing. I also think the biggest thing one can do is listen. Be kind, be respectful, and most of all listen.
Matt: What lessons on leadership did you learn along the way?
Angie: I always looked for good people. I always knew I could teach people the products in banking, but I could not teach them how to be a good person. I wanted to hire honest, confidential, hard-working and kind people. The rest I could teach them. Personality is such a key factor and so I looked for good people to surround myself with.
Allen Lima Leadership is currently taking applications for the 2020-2021 Signature Course class until Aug. 31. Learn more at allenlimaleadership.com/signature-course/.