Forget everything you thought you knew about leadership
By Matt Reichman
UVU Magazine, Winter 2012
Preston Case learned numbers by counting the bullet holes in the walls of his home — one of his homes, that is, seeing as how his family frequently hopped around the rougher edges of Salt Lake City. Of course, all that moving disrupted his progress at school. Dyslexia and the divorce, even more so.
Consequently, it was early in life that Case got used to hearing, and repeating, that he’d never amount to anything. “You’ll never be normal,” they told him, and he listened, because with dice loaded so heavily toward disadvantage, why bother?
“I let it take over who I was,” he says. “It was the worst time in my life.”
It seems neither category, nature nor nurture, had destined Case to be a prototypical “born leader.” Leave that for the tall, square-jawed types that captain both the football and debate teams and run for class president, right? Take 18-year-old Katie Jenkins, for instance, who put together a $2,000-fundraiser for an Iraqi elementary school while still a sophomore at Provo High School. Now there’s somebody who’s going places, and fast.
But just because the usual earmarks of success might distinguish future leaders early on, does the lack thereof doom others to sheepdom? Of course not, says Kirk Young ‘02, interim director of Utah Valley University’s Center for the Advancement of Leadership (CAL). It’s just a question of “awakening,” for some, he says,
This is why both Jenkins and Case, opposite ends of the spectrum, found a place as freshman colleagues at the CAL this year. The Center is built around a two- to four-semester leadership certification taken in conjunction with a student’s primary field of study, be it behavioral science, business or biology. Through coursework, service projects, mentorships and other personal benchmarks, the CAL aims to infuse and refine those qualities of leadership that some may deem innate, or unteachable.
“There are as many ‘experts’ on leadership as there are people,” Young says. “It’s a dynamic concept; hard to pin down.” But pushing aside the snappy suits, slicked-back hair and corporate buzzwords, there are real skills to be learned, such as ethical behavior, public speaking, attitude, teamwork, dependability — all skills that permeate any industry, he says. And on a broader level, leadership is as much about bringing the best out of yourself as it is bringing it out of others.
“The biggest thing I see CAL graduates come away with is a much keener insight into themselves, and who they are and what they have to offer the world,” Young says.
Two roads less travelled
The CAL can only take 60 to 75 new students each year, so it has to be pretty selective, Young says. But that doesn’t mean those without a gold-plated resume need not apply.
“We hand-pick the students that come in, so it’s been an awesome opportunity to work with some of the best and brightest at UVU,” says Young. “However, of those admitted each year, 10 to 20 percent are a little more introverted, a little more reserved. The person they thought they were when they came in was different from who they are today.”In the cases of Case and Jenkins, the two arrived at the same crossroads from starkly different tracks.
Case’s rails were headed in quite the opposite direction until he moved to Herriman, Utah, as a teenager. There, he found a couple buddies who didn’t put much stock in his shortcomings.
“They kind of kicked me in the butt and told me to do something with my life,” he says.
Case decided to get involved in Boy Scouts of America’s National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT). The annual camp in the Uintah mountains, staffed entirely by youth under age 18, is essentially a week-long crash-course in leadership, the principles of which are taught through conflict resolution role-playing, goofy skits and even a homemade ballista battle. At 13, Case was among the 70 participants at NYLT. Four years later he was in charge of them, along with 20 other camp staffers, as the camp’s Senior Patrol Leader.
“I started living by the principle, ‘If I can see it, I can be it, no matter what happened in the past,’” Case says.
This new-found mettle eventually led him to UVU’s Wolverine Ambassadors program, and a fellow ambassador then led Case to CAL, which he saw as a place to learn how to better help others. He’s majoring in digital media with an audio emphasis, but intends to weave service and leadership into his career wherever possible.
“I know how it feels to not feel good about yourself and hate what you’re doing,” Case says. “I want to be like my friends who pulled me out of the gutter. I want to help kids get out of their slumps and do something with their lives.”
For Jenkins, it was a high school guidance counselor who urged her toward leadership opportunities, including the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership program, a national organization with more than 375,000 alumni.
Through a HOBY conference in Washington, D.C., Jenkins met a woman named Hana’a, the principal of an Iraqi school for girls. She told Jenkins about the difficulty of hanging onto students because of the lack of resources and programs. A few months later, she had organized donation drives, solicited corporate sponsorships and launched a fundraising contest, to the tune of about $2,000 — all for extracurricular activities at a school she’d never seen and for students she’d never meet.
It was that same year, as a sophomore at Provo High School, that Jenkins attended UVU’s CAL Leadership Conference, an annual workshop and lecture symposium specifically for high school students. What most impressed Jenkins were the brief remarks of a certain CAL student who had helped organize the conference itself.
“This girl stood up and said, ‘I put on this whole event through CAL.’ I said, ‘I want to be that girl.’”
And that was it. Jenkins considered Brigham Young University and was accepted, but she was too fascinated with the prospect of orchestrating her own events via the CAL program. It had to be UVU, she says.
Jenkins plans to major in recreation management, probably toward a career in event or wedding planning. Either way, the CAL is giving her the confidence and competence to make it happen, she says.
“What I thrive off of is the reassurance that we can do anything we want to do,” she says. “That belief doesn’t just happen; it’s a process. It has to be real to you.”
Doctoring the resume
Jake Galovich is one of those irritating people that can do just about everything, only he’s nice enough that one can’t really begrudge him his Midas touch.
The 23-year-old senior from Spanish Fork is already a high-distinction CAL graduate and is set to earn a biology degree in April 2012, hopefully to be followed by medical school. He’s also minoring in Spanish and music, music being his first avocation — he regularly performs on vocals and the piano, and puts himself through school teaching piano lessons at his own JG Studios.
It’s a hard to believe a guy like this ever had much of a shell, but Galovich swears he did, and credits the CAL for bringing him out of it.
“CAL has put me in front of people,” he says, noting he’d rather sing than speak to a crowd any day. “I’m a pretty quiet guy. But CAL says, ‘OK, you need to be right here, with a lot of eyes watching.’ I overcame that obstacle, that fear.”
This confidence came in handy in the summer of 2010 when Galovich spent months researching pancreatic tumors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He then presented his findings to hundreds of medical professionals at a weeklong conference in Miami later that year.
After that, Galovich set to work planning a new conference at UVU as part of his CAL leadership project. Working in conjunction with UVU’s Pre-Med club, he helped organize the first annual Intermountain Pre-Med Conference in May 2011, headlined by world-renowned cardiologist and medical researcher Elder Russell M. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D. More than 20 physicians and 400 students, some from as far away as Boise, Idaho, attended the event, for which Galovich helped secure $21,000 in donations as vice president of fundraising.
In a way, Galovich was in way over his head with this stuff. But he rose to the challenge.
“CAL put me in those places,” he says. “It pushed me beyond what I would normally do.”
Galovich and Young both say these are the experiences that will set him apart when it’s time to apply to medical school.
“We try to blend this hybrid between students getting theoretical training with hands-on, applied experience,” Young says. “In one of my first meetings with the CAL advisory board, a number of individuals from the business world jumped all over me and said, ‘We’re tired of seeing people leave college who are able to talk the talk but not walk the walk.’”
Likewise Jay Fugal, a CAL graduate who currently oversees 380 employees as a human resources director, says the one-and-done service project doesn’t cut it on resumes anymore. He wants to see leadership and service hours on the order of hundreds.
“When helping CAL students prepare resumes, there’s a night-and-day difference from helping a regular college kid,” Fugal says. “We didn’t have any problems with CAL students coming up with things to put on a resume, especially in the skills section. We had to narrow it down; they had too many skills. Others, we have to stretch to come up with things.”
Local boy makes good
Mark McCormack ‘07 felt a twinge of jealousy when he stopped by the CAL student retreat in the fall of 2011. As a member of the CAL’s advisory board, he was a guest speaker at the kick-off get-together for the new crop of CAL students in Heber, Utah.
“They didn’t have all this — the social aspect of it — when I graduated from CAL,” he laments.
That would be the lone gripe, if you can call it a gripe, that McCormack has about his CAL experience. He graduated from the CAL with high distinction in 2007, when the current iteration of CAL was still in its infancy. In 2009 he was asked to return to the CAL as a board member and mentor.
McCormack, originally from Highland, Utah, is president of the West Jordan-based manufacturing firm ADP Lemco, Inc. The company, which has grown 170 percent with McCormack at the helm, produces basketball backstops, batting cages, scoreboards and other athletic/display equipment. Yearly, they ship more than 600 basketball units alone, he says.
He has worked at the company full-time since he graduated high school, so he didn’t necessarily need the shiny CAL sticker on his resume to get to this point in his career. So why do it?
“Most of the big things in my life wouldn’t have changed a lot [without CAL],” says the former Lone Peak High School football player and wrestler (and current assistant football coach at Riverton High School). “But it would’ve taken me a lot longer to figure things out.”
This is particularly true with McCormack’s interactions with employees. His management style is a direct reflection of the humility he gained while completing his CAL leadership practicum at Lehi Junior High School. He spent three hours a week as a Why Try volunteer working with troubled kids, most mentally or physically abused, that had been kicked out of class.
They all had some crazy story, he says, and couldn’t help but act out in class.
“They just didn’t get to feel success. We would talk with them, help them do little exercises — that way they could understand what a small version of success feels like. As I said goodbye, and drove 35 minutes to work, I had to think to myself, ‘What am I doing to be successful? How am I different?’ Sometimes, you’re not that different.”
This realization has been invaluable as an employer, McCormack says, where hiring and firing becomes totally different when viewed through the lenses of humility and compassion. This sentiment is common among CAL students — a somewhat counter-intuitive byproduct for a program that, on its face, seeks and produces an elite culture.“I have noticed a kind of humility that they develop, especially about the impact they can have,” Young says.
That’s the first and strongest endorsement McCormack has regarding the CAL, in fact: character-building. The CAL is an accelerant of sorts for growth as a person, he says, which is why a student in any discipline would do well to look into the Center.
The day is not far off that the students that can set themselves apart through programs like CAL will be getting all the jobs, he says.
“I see CAL being one of UVU’s flagship programs very soon,” McCormack says.
The Center for the Advancement of Leadership was formally established in 2007, although it has existed in various forms at UVU for more than a decade. Every year a new cohort of roughly 150 students works toward the Leadership Certification Program, which is recognized on college transcripts and diplomas. The LCP has three levels:
2 semesters = Standard
3 semesters = Distinction
4 semesters = High Distinction
By the time a typical CAL student is finished, he or she will have completed at least:
6 mentor meetings
1 capstone interview
12 hours of leadership theory
2 leadership courses
1 personal journal and peer evaluation
20 hours of leadership practicum
These requirements are modeled around CAL’s four emphases:
LEARN: Professional Development
ACQUIRE: Theory and Coursework
DISCOVER: Personal Development