steve coats The Gift of Leadership program

The Gift of Leadership: Continuing to build strength within the Cincinnati nonprofit community

The Gift of Leadership program, begun in 2013, is not just an annual workshop. It is a cause.

For all of us at International Leadership Associates (ILA), we feel privileged to have been involved from the beginning in this important cause—to bring the power of The Leadership Challenge® to dedicated leaders of various nonprofit organizations in the Greater Cincinnati area.

Our 2014 Gift of Leadership program was held in March, and for two full days ILA and our other collaborative partners hosted a dynamic group of managers and directors from such Greater Cincinnati area nonprofits as The Council on Aging, Girl Scouts, St. Vincent de Paul, and the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, among others. The venue was once again provided by our partner, Camp Joy, a nonprofit organization devoted to experiential learning for over 75 years. Another partner in this year’s program was The Leadership Council of Human Services Executives, whose mission is to maximize the impact of nonprofit organizations, develop their leaders and strengthen the community. They generously provided scholarships for the program, and are deeply committed to providing more nonprofit members with ongoing, high-quality leadership development opportunities, such as The Leadership Challenge.

Collectively, we have been working on a vision of making the Cincinnati community better by building up our nonprofit leadership. We have developed a plan and are already in the process of rolling out a strategy to seek ongoing funding from businesses and other donors, to make the gift of The Leadership Challenge the foundation of leadership for area nonprofits.

Certified Master Facilitator Valarie Willis is also part of this endeavor. She offers The Leadership Challenge for additional members of this nonprofit community, and has played an important role in developing the strategy for keeping the Gift of Leadership moving forward in Cincinnati.

In addition to The Leadership Challenge® Workshop—which included the Leadership Practices Inventory—this year’s program, again, offered a variety of outside experiential learning activities, including a high ropes challenge course designed to bring forth many of the lessons of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®. There were community-building campfires and “rustically elegant” cabin-style sleeping accommodations. New friendships were made and participants have begun sharing best practices—already raising their leadership capacity to better serve people in need throughout the Greater Cincinnati community.

For participants at this year’s event, it was a remarkable experience. As one 2014 Gift of Leadership participant wrote:  

“Thank you for the opportunity to attend The Leadership Challenge and for taking the time to provide feedback on the assessment. It was unlike any other “workshop” that I have attended and has affected me both personally and professionally. I have made some commitments to myself that I intend to accomplish in the next 30 days that will benefit me and the organization. I have a partner/new friend that I will be meeting in 30 days to hold me accountable. Thanks again for thinking of me for this opportunity.”

Every day, people working with human services agencies must confront circumstances which seem virtually impossible, and often deeply heart wrenching. Their work is hard and tireless, yet their passion and commitment remains unswerving. It is a privilege to be able to contribute to their efforts in some small way. We thank them for their devotion to their work and for accepting the challenge to become better leaders for their organizations and the people they serve.

Steve Coats, a Leadership Challenge® Certified Master, is a managing partner and co-owner of International Leadership Associates, a leadership development education and consulting firm. For 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


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