GA Child And Family Services VP Doesn’t Settle For Complacency

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 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.

Q: Can you tell us about G.A. Family Services?

A: We’re a not-for-profit organization that provides an array of programs for at risk youth and families in the surrounding counties. We offer a residential treatment center, schooling, therapeutic foster care and preventive in-home services. Youth are placed at G.A. by family court, the Department of Health and Human Services, or public school districts. We’re founded on a tradition of caring and compassion toward youth that goes back to 1886. Our services are individualized, child-centered and permanency-focused. Our website address is

Q: What is your educational background?

A: I received my master’s in social work from Marywood University in Scranton, Pa., and my bachelor’s in sociology from Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y.

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

A: I think a leader should have a vision for their organization and not settle for complacency.

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing leaders today?

A: One of the biggest challenges is keeping abreast of what is happening in your field and its potential impact upon your organization.

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

A: One mistake I’ve seen leaders make is a lack of willingness to be innovative and to explore opportunities for program expansion. As times change, leaders need to re-evaluate their (organization’s) programs so they can keep pace with trends in the field and remain viable.

Q: Can you explain the impact, if any, that social networking has made on your organization or you personally as a leader?

A: Social networking sites have provided organizations and individuals the opportunity to share their thoughts with the masses through a simple touch of a button. They have definitely changed how we communicate with each other. Social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn have allowed me to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. I am a firm believer in developing a network of influential people who can impact you down the road. I work hard to collect “friends” and avoid collecting enemies. You never know when a friend can/will help you down the road.

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

A: I would find someone who you admire professionally and see if they would be your mentor. Also, consider joining agency boards and seek out training opportunities to expand your leadership skills.

Q: What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

A: Entering into a leadership position is a big step and should be taken seriously. Invest the time in learning the position and the organization to do the best job possible. Getting a leadership position is only the start. What you do with it is what matters most.

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

A: I seek out trainings, attend conferences in my field, network with colleagues and ask for help when I’m uncertain about the best way to handle something.

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