Leadership Tips and Tricks from CGL Alumni

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It’s an interesting time to be leading a team. From the challenges of the talent shortage, inflation, and more, company leaders are being challenged in many different and new ways.

At the Chamber, we have tools to walk alongside our community’s leaders and help them grow in their leadership journey. We reached out to our Create Great Leaders Alumni Network to see what advice has helped them successfully lead their team. We’ve captured their answers below!

Leadership Tips and Tricks from CGL AlumniNeil Carlson, PhD, Founder & Principal Consultant, DataWise Consulting, LLC

If I had $1,000 for every time someone has said, “I’m not a data person,” I’d have a Tesla by now, with enough left over for some of those amazing paratha bread fusion tacos from Roam.

If your brain is healthy and you’re breathing, you can be a “data person.” In fact, you already are one: you just have to put in the work to go from couch potato data person to goes-to-the-gym data person. There’s no “data person” gene or personality type or learning style.

Meanwhile, some—maybe not all—people in your network who have data-intensive jobs may not be pleased to be stereotyped as a “data person,” especially not if that comes with standard-issue “professional” boundary-policing—you know, “stay in your lane”? Some of your most talented associates may crave opportunities to be involved in business leadership, to have ideas recognized and enacted that don’t come from a database or a HelpDesk ticket.

David Epstein’s book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World documents how the real outliers in contemporary society aren’t usually one-instrument virtuosi. Most influential high performers have actually moved around through multiple roles, disciplines, and contexts, experimenting and broadening their experiences, personally and professionally. Some travel to a plan, others just ricochet like pinballs, but the end result is still world-beating skill.

Consider whether your own leadership style needs a little more “data person” in it, and if it does, put in the time to broaden your range. And please help your team’s datamongers climb out of the orchestra pit and get on stage once in a while, to act or sing or conduct or make scenery or operate lighting or sell tickets. The first rehearsals may be messy, but the big show will be outstanding.

Leadership Tips and Tricks from CGL Alumn 4Tom Christy, Associate Wealth Advisor, Sytsma Wealth Strategies

Leadership is helping those who surround you succeed. There is not one way to do it, but its easiest when you stick to what you’re good at. 


Leadership Tips and Tricks from CGL AlumnOmar Cuevas, Vice President of Investor & Corporate Relations, Grand Rapids Chamber

There have been many times when I’ve been in a room, around a table on in a meeting where the thoughts of “do I belong here?, is there someone more qualified to be here than me?” etc. This is sometimes exacerbated when as a Latino or person of color, I am the only one like me in the room. At times, Imposter Syndrome has led to self-doubt and anxiety which has limited my engagement and participation in a meeting. I’ve come to realize that I may not ever get rid of it so instead, I acknowledge the feeling and then combat it with personal affirmations that self-sooth. If you deal with something similar, remember that you are where you are because of your capabilities, your experience, your knowledge, and the value you can add. If you are in uncharted territory, own the space you are in; make an impact. Acknowledge Imposter Syndrome then move on to greatness.

Andre Daley, Director of Inclusion, Grand Rapids ChamberLeadership Tips and Tricks from CGL Alumni 5

“When you’re a leader — no matter how long you’ve been in your role or how hard the journey was to get there — you are merely overhead unless you’re bringing out the best in your employees.” How Humble Leadership Really Work – Harvard Business Review

“Being aware of oneself is the basis for future actions. Leaders who know their personal patterns of behavior can more easily adapt to new challenges.” Inclusive Leadership Theoretical Framework

Leadership Tips and Tricks from CGL Alumn 3Courtney Failer, Community Relations Manager, Warner Norcross & Judd

“Do it afraid.” When a new opportunity presents itself, and you’re equal parts excited and terrified – do it. It’s in those moments you find your greatest support systems, impress yourself with your own abilities, and acquire new skills.


Leadership Tips and Tricks from CGL Alumni 1Natalie Hall, Chief Development and Program Officer, Michigan Women Forward

Leadership Tip that I read daily (on my work wall)!  – I am learning everyday to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me. – Tracee Ellis Ross


Leadership Tips and Tricks from CGL Alumn 2Ellen Sawyer,

Show your humanity. In everything I have done, the most impactful moments were those that showed vulnerability. When something is hard, say it out loud. When something makes you mad or sad or uncomfortable, ask for a moment to process. Share your moments of pure joy and celebrate your success. And do it out loud, with your people who work alongside you every day. In a world where expectations are high and show a picture of an unflappable, almost robotic, people, embracing what makes you human also makes you relatable and therefore impactful.  

Leadership Tips and Tricks from CGL Alumni 2Grace VanDenBrink, Assistant to Ken Bogard, EOS Worldwide

Leadership is about asking the right questions and listening without reservation to their responses. Your team has the right answers you need and your job as a leader is to extract those and put them to good use. So, what are you not asking your people about?


Leadership Tips and Tricks from CGL Alumn 1


Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from more leaders in our community at our upcoming Leadership Lesson Breakfast. Register now!


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