Masters Give Back

Grateful and Inspired for the Opportunity to Give Back

Steve Coats

“What a great opportunity to share learning and support each other moving forward. The Leadership Challenge® program exceeded my expectations.”—Chief Marketing Officer, Cincinnati Nonprofit

For the past four years, I’ve had the honor of offering The Leadership Challenge® Workshop to members of the nonprofit community in Cincinnati. Each time, I’ve come away more grateful and more inspired for having had the chance to share my time and expertise with such giving and generous leaders who work in service of others. And this year’s Masters Give Back experience, for me, was no exception.

Twenty-one eager and excited participants from several nonprofit human services agencies joined us at our venue, Camp Joy, for the 2016 workshop event. And like years past, our all-inclusive, residential program included some challenging and memorable outdoor experiential activities along with engaging classroom learning of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®. Not even buckets of rain the first day could dampen the enthusiasm of the group. They engaged each other in meaningful conversation, deeply explored their LPI® feedback, and offered advice, counsel, and coaching to each other throughout the session. And they may have reached a new high in presenting recognitions to each other, based on how often we needed to re-supply the awards table.

As I reflect back on this most recent Leadership Challenge program and the leaders who shared in this experience with me, the expression “wants to struggle” is what resonates. Our participants have really hard jobs. They provide programs and assistance for the aged, orphans, distressed families, the infirm, the disabled, and those seeking work who are frequently pigeon-holed as unqualified. They struggle with finding and keeping good people, and finding the resources to do what needs to be done. And yet, in spite of the difficulty of their jobs—or perhaps because of it!—every single leader who came to the workshop truly wanted to be there. They wanted to learn to be better leaders and to challenge themselves. They wanted to make every other leader in the room better, too. And yes, they struggled. Many spent an unusual amount of time exploring new and uncomfortable territory while working on their personal visions. They stretched their beliefs about themselves, shattering false limitations they held about their capabilities. And they reached out to build new and deep relationships, which for many is never as simple as it sounds.

Nearly 30 years ago when work with The Leadership Challenge first began, we would ask workshop participants to imagine if all of their people were volunteers what would they need to do, as leaders, to get them to bring their hearts, souls, minds, and spirits to work. How would they motivate others to show up every day and work hard and long for a cause or a customer if there were no paychecks, benefits, offices, and other perks? Inspiring volunteers to want to struggle with you—and for you—is still one of the best tests of genuine leadership. And our nonprofit leaders grasp and model this core concept of leadership far more than most.

This year’s group of participating leaders praised the experience and expressed gratitude for all that they learned. What they may never realize is how much I and everyone who participated in delivering this program ended up learning about leadership from all of them. In fact, a story shared by one leader truly speaks to why I consider my ability to offer this program such a gift, and also validates the work that all of us in The Leadership Challenge community do. This leader shared that when his executive director returned from the previous year’s program, she came back a changed person—both in the way she worked with people and in the way she led. He went on to say how lucky and privileged he was to have her as his boss and friend. He was also very grateful that she was giving him and a few of his colleagues the chance to change their lives as well, in this year’s session.

In the end, it seems to me that this is the most valuable lesson of all: that leadership does make a difference.

P.S. A rousing thank you to everyone at Wiley who continues to support the Masters Give Back program. You are making a real difference in the Cincinnati community—for the aspiring leaders in our nonprofit agencies and especially for those in need whom they serve.


Steve Coats, Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge, is managing partner and co-owner of International Leadership Associates, a leadership development education and consulting firm. For over 25 years, Steve has taught, coached, and consulted with executives and all levels of managers around the world in leadership development, team development, personal growth, change, and business strategy. Steve can be reached at stevec@i-lead.com

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