Organizational Leadership: Susan Feland, Founder and President of AcademyWomen, and Gene Howard, Executive Director at Orange County Alliance for Children and Families

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – Talent Talk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  Talent Talk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues, organizational leadership, and transformative culture. Today’s guests are Susan Feland, Founder and President of AcademyWomen; and Gene Howard, Executive Director at Orange County Alliance for Children and Families.  To hear the entire show, click here

SUSAN FELAND organizational leadership

Feland founded the AcademyWomen in 2003 as non-profit organization serving women in all branches of the military by coming together in live and virtual forums for inspiration, empowerment and networking. The program has since expanded to include both veterans and military spouses.

Feland herself grew up traveling the world as a “military brat” before spending time in financial services. Later, she ventured into the worlds of nonprofits and academia. In fact, Feland also works at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, running the online program.

The vision they reinforce at AcademyWomen is “a culture of acceptance and inclusion and lack of judgment, where women can come together in a community to share their excitement and share their fears.” This is often in contrast to a typical military environment where women may feel they have to blend in to be more like others instead of accepting that they have different needs from their male counterparts.

Common Threads of Uncommonly Good Leadership

Based on her interactions with leaders all of types, Feland observes two consistent themes among the greatest leaders.  First, she asserts: “The best leaders that I have observed have found the perfect balance between humility and self-confidence. In striking that balance, they have been able to inspire trust and confidence.” Secondly, Feland notices that, “They never stop learning. It’s a never-ending process.”  This helps to create the best organizational leadership.

Mission vs. Self-Promotion

“I left the military very mission-focused,” recalls Feland. “In my first job in financial services…I had to do a little bit of self-promotion. The feedback I got in my first job is that mission is nice but you have to think about yourself, and in thinking about yourself, you can further your organization’s goals.”

Based on her own experience as well as her work with female military leaders, Feland believes that women often times find themselves in situations where they want to keep people happy. “If you believe in who you are and what you are doing…that is what is important much more than the one or two vocal naysayers or people who think you are stepping out of place as a woman.”

What are You Reading?

Feland is reading Story of the World,” by Susan Wise Bauer, on how human society evolves and how leadership styles come and go.

How Can I Connect with You? Via or on LinkedIn.

GENE HOWARD organizational leadership

Howard is the executive director at Orange County Alliance for Children and Families. Howard has worked in the area of abused and fostered children for several decades, both on the government and non-profit sides. He describes the Orange County Alliance for Children and Families as a consortium of 14 non-profit agencies in the region that touch thousands of foster children each day. Howard asserts it is the first time to his knowledge that organizations in this category have come together to work collaboratively.  This challenge needs quality organizational leadership and collaboration among all leaders to make it be a functional entity.

Passion to Overcome

His work carries more challenge yet more reward than the typical job. “There are times when you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders…Yet, in my experience, we’ve had remarkable transformations of these kids who you wouldn’t think had a chance of success….all we really needed to do for these kids is to level the playing field for them.”

To that end, passion is the first consideration when it comes to hiring. Howard comments, “Working in this field can be very demanding and very taxing, and you need that passion to overcome it.” He shares, “Interviewing has been one of my worst ways to find the proper candidate.” Instead, he has come to rely on assessment tools that help him match the candidate’s skills to the job at hand during the interview process.

Culture of Collegial CEOs

Howard describes the Alliance’s culture as incredibly collegial among the various CEOs of its member organizations. Howard also defines their success as two-fold. The first is how they are doing in the community beyond the clients they serve directly. To him, it comes down to identifying the areas that have the maximum impact and being “very planful” about what they are doing. The second is in having an organization where your employees feel fulfilled.  Providing strong organizational leadership is one way that this can be accomplished.

When it comes to influencers in his career path, the director of an agency he worked for identified potential in Howard at a young age and mentored him. “Had she not done that, I don’t think I would be where I am today.” The biggest area of leadership he’s developed in is the ability to work with a variety of individuals and bring them together around a common cause.

What are You Reading?

Howard is reading Governance as Leadership,” which turns on its head our traditional views of how nonprofit boards of directors can be successful today.

How Can I Connect with You? I can be reached on LinkedIn.

Tune into the show next week, and remember, do what you love….and show the world how talented you can be, today.

Date: July 22, 2014