CAP’s McDermott Looks Back At Influential 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: Can you tell us about the Child Advocacy Program of Chautauqua County?

A: Our mission is to end child abuse in Chautauqua County. When abuse occurs, CAP coordinates a multidisciplinary community response. This response team includes members of law enforcement, Child Protective Services, prosecution, medical, mental health and advocacy. We provide a safe, child friendly place for interviews and support to child victims and their non-offending caregivers. Our website address is

Q: What is your educational background?

A: I received my master’s in social work from the State University of New York at Buffalo, my bachelor’s in sociology from the College of Charleston, and an Associate in Arts degree from Jamestown Community College. I’ve also participated in a three-year Leadership, Exchange and Coaching Program through the Northeast Region Child Advocacy Center, have earned authorization to serve as a facilitator for Darkness to Lights Stewards of Children Program, and was selected as a senior leader in the Duke Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy Learning Collaborative.

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: Martha Lask, a leadership and executive coaching consultant from Philadelphia had a huge impact on my life as a leader. Martha challenged our peer group of child advocacy center directors to look at some of the assumptions we made about leadership and inspired me to design and embrace my unique leadership stance. We also began to look more closely at the strengths we bring to our role as leaders. I learned that one of my important leadership strengths is one of being a “connector” of people who leverages limited resources by drawing in partners and collaborating with others.

Q: What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?

A: Every leader is faced with tough decisions. What’s most important to me is how they are made. I think it is crucial to front-load decisions by including more people at the beginning of the process especially if they will be responsible for carrying out the decision. I find that the implementation process is quicker if we spend more time being inclusive and transparent up front.

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

A: I think a leader needs to be a servant first. If you know how to serve others you will be a more compassionate leader.

Q: What career “mistakes” have helped to mold you into the leader you are today?

A: There are two things that have really challenged me as a leader. The first, is putting too much emphasis on wanting to do everything “right.” The second is thinking I have to do it “right now.” I can get hung up on being a perfectionist and suffering from analysis paralysis. What I have learned is that sometimes done is better than perfect. Having a strategic plan in place has helped to prioritize the many demands on my time.

Q: What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

A: I stay connected to best practices in leadership with individual coaching. I attend the National Children’s Alliance Leadership conference. My way of staying current in my profession is by reading articles and peer-reviewed journals. I’m always on the lookout for training opportunities to reinforce my learning. I pray for wisdom.

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, non-profit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at or visit JL Nick and Associates’ website at