Shearer: Remain Hands-On As Leaders

Each month, my weekly business column features a respected leader in our region who has been in their career long enough to have learned a lesson or two worth sharing. The name of this monthly feature is, “Leadership Reflections: Lessons Learned From The School Of Hard Knocks. “

You will have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the featured leader’s leadership journey that led them to their current role. Most importantly, you will gain valuable insight from helpful “real life” lessons they’ve learned along the way. It is my hope that these life lessons will help to inspire a spirit of continued personal leadership development for everyone who reads it. Enjoy.

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Q: Leadership seems to be something you embrace. In addition to your role as president and owner of your own business, what are some other positions you hold throughout our community?

A: I serve as president of Mayville Chautauqua Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the board with Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, director of Chautauqua County Vacation Bureau and board member with Chautauqua Lake Association.

Q: Can you tell us about your own business, Chautauqua Lake Marina Inc.?

A: We are a full-service marina featuring boat sales, rental, storage, dockage and repairs. We also have a ship’s store and offer New York state safe boating courses. Our website address is

Q: What is your educational background?

A: I graduated from Chautauqua Central Schools, and earned a Business Administration Degree from Jamestown Community College.

Q: Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Why and how did this person impact your life?

A: The people who greatly impacted me as a leader are my parents. They taught me not to quit and never to do anything half way. By watching them demonstrate those values in their daily lives, it made a huge difference as far as my own leadership qualities. Whether it was in business, athletics or family life, they were my first teachers in leadership. I hope I can pass this onto my children as well.

Q: As an organization gets larger there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening?

A: One way any leader can prevent this from happening is to remain hands-on in their own business. To this day I still pump gas, work in my retail store and sell boats. Not only do I keep inspired through daily interaction with my customers and employees, but it keeps the business fresh and interesting. I’ve done this for 33 years and still enjoy going to work every day. I don’t think there are many people who can say that.

Q: What is one characteristic you believe every leader should possess?

A: The ability not to let things remain the same just because, “that’s the way it’s always been.” This is especially important in a depressed economy. The ability to truly look at things with fresh eyes and an open mind often results in great ideas if you are open to giving them a chance. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way. Mistakes create an opportunity for improvement.

Q: What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?

A: Letting ego get in the way of good judgment. Listen to the ideas and suggestions of others. Be willing to admit sometimes others may have a better idea than you. That’s OK. Don’t be afraid to give others credit when their idea works out well. I stay close to my employees and customers since most great ideas come from them. Make sure to leave your door open and your ears also.

Q: What would you recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?

A: Become active in the community. When someone chooses you to be in a leadership role, make the most of it. When I was asked to serve as president of the Mayville/Chautauqua Chamber of Commerce six years ago, I embraced it as a new opportunity. I’ve made many contacts that have helped me become a better leader in my community and my business.

Elizabeth P. Cipolla is a regional director and senior consultant with JL Nick and Associates Inc. She is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, employment branding, professional development and executive coaching for more than 13 years. Her leadership experience comes from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at or visit JL Nick and Associate’s website at