By Bill O'Boyle
CEO, North State Consulting
I was humbled when Citrix nominated me to the Emerging Leaders Program. I must admit that, at first, I saw it as a networking opportunity and a resume builder. I was honored and excited by the opportunity, but I grossly underestimated the impact this program would have. I had the opportunity to learn from some of the most purpose driven leaders in the area, develop long lasting relationships with amazing peers, and learn how I could better serve the community.
This format of the program is amazing. The leaders were not selected simply from financial success. The common thread was selfless service and leading a purpose driven life although I doubt that was ever prompted. We did not hear endless stories of how they worked 15 hour days for 20 years to “achieve.” Instead, we heard countless stories of their people and the platforms they created. I do not recall an exec bragging about a recent stock price but I do remember many stories of how proud of the impact their firm or institution had on the community and the people they served.
Each leader was amazing but one stood out from the moment I met him: Dr. Everett Ward, president of St. Augustine’s University. Dr. Ward is a man who walks with a purpose in every step he takes. Dr. Ward was born on the HBCU he graduated from and now is tasked to resurrect. I saw firsthand what it meant for a leader to selfishly serve a mission and inspire all those around him to do the same. He faced many challenges upon accepting the position and he did address some of them. However, he spent the time helping us understand the generations of pride that surround you as soon as you enter the truly remarkable university. He graciously gave us a tour while he greeted every single student, faculty, and staff member by first name that walked by. I have been back to St. Aug's several times, called on Dr. Ward for advice, and also formed an official partnership with Citrix. I would not have had that opportunity without this program, and I am extremely grateful.
I also made long lasting friendships with classmates. Allison Warren Barber was the senior vice president of the Greater Triangle United Way. We quickly realized there was an opportunity for us to work together in the community. As with most nonprofits, there is often a shortage of resources. This is true with financial capital and human capital. We decided to address both. At the time, I led a team of nine that structured complex, strategic partnerships with other software companies. That often involved creating joint go-to-market strategies. We decided to use our human capital to develop the go-to-market strategy for Innovate United. We wanted to increase participation and increase donations so we applied the same methodologies in the tech industry. Our team absolutely loved the experience of working with the United Way and the program was a huge success. That model has been taught to other United Way and businesses across the country. Allison is now the CEO of the Seattle-area United Way, and I have served on the Community Engagement Committee for two years. That is all thanks to the Emerging Leaders Program.
I was inspired by the program to also attend Leadership North Carolina. I now have my own company and can proudly say we have 14 employees here in Raleigh. I am honored to have graduated from the program and now serve on the Chamber's Small Business Advisory Board. The Chamber is an invaluable part of our community and look forward to sending our first applicant to the program this quarter.