The Leadership Legacy of a Non-Profit CEO

This term I am taking Leadership Legacy, a course co-taught by Professors Rucci and Rodek. As a daytime course that meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:30am to 10:20am, this course is often overlooked by MLHR students- but I would highly recommend that you find time in your schedule to take this course at Fisher. Stopping for coffee on the way to class each morning can also help immensely.

Each week we have a recognized leader come to class to talk about their legacy and how they lead others. Where else could you ever hope to hear CEOs talk about their personal lives, professional lives, and the lessons they have learned? Among the exceptional speakers we have had was Charles W. Gehring, the President and CEO of LifeCare Alliance. Think you haven’t heard of this company? They are best know for the Meals on Wheels Program that they operate, which provides over 1,000,000 home-delivered meals annually to those in need.

Charles Gehring joined LifeCare Alliance in 2001 when the organization was facing decreasing revenue, increasing numbers of clients in-need, and a culture that was resisting change. Gehring has led the organization to not only a climate of stability but has also spear-headed much needed growth to accommodate the rising numbers of senior and chronically ill individuals in-need within Franklin and Madison counties during his time as President and CEO. Gehring was able to accomplish these results through a successful capital campaign, two mergers with other agencies, by addressing employee retention issues and effectively leveraging volunteers.

If it sounds like he knows a thing or two about HR, you’re right! 🙂 Although the leaders that we hear from come from finance/accounting/marketing backgrounds, all of them recognize the importance of the “people side” of the business. Mr. Gehring was a phenomenal speaker because he provided us with specific advice about how to manage people and go above and beyond what your business does in order to serve your clients. When he first said this, we all looked at each other like he was crazy. How do you make any money at all if you are always trying to find ways that you can meet your client’s other needs?

Here’s how:

LifeCare Alliance has partnered and in some cases merged with other entities that serve their clients. Meals on Wheels volunteers deliver meals to the homes of those in need, most of whom are elderly, chronically ill, or rely on government assistance. These volunteers noted that many of the meal recipients had pets that they could not otherwise feed, and that meal recipients often shared their food with their pets. LifeCare Alliance responded by partnering with Walmart and pet supply stores to collect pet food that the stores would otherwise throw away. These stores used to dispose of pet food from broken bags, or bags with old designs and logos. Now the Meals on Wheels volunteers deliver meals and pet food to their clients! LifeCare Alliance is serving its clients better, with little to no additional cost and effort.

This got me to thinking- when I am working, how can I better serve my company’s clients? By thinking outside the box, can I find strategic partnerships that could help my company serve our customer’s unmet needs? This is definitely something that I will be pondering as I think about building my own leadership legacy. And there are still 5 more speakers to hear from before the term is over- I wonder what other insights I’ll gain from each of them!?!