Drake: Strong Leaders Turn Negatives Into Positives

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.

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.

This column features Ben Drake, Director of Athletics, Physical Education and Health -Jamestown Public Schools.

Q: Tell us about Jamestown Public Schools’ Athletic and Health Sciences Departments?

A: Jamestown Public Schools has a total of 62 athletic teams, 71 coaches, 23 varsity sports, 25 physical education teachers and seven health teachers. The athletic department’s website address is ww2.jamestownpublicschools.org/depts/athletics/

Q: What is your educational background?

A: I’ve earned a master’s of science in athletic administration, a certificate of advanced study in educational administration and a bachelor’s of science in physical education.

Q: What similarities do you see between leading a business organization and coaching a team of athletes?

A: Leading a team is just like leading a business organization. As a coach, my job is to mold a group of individuals into a force that becomes greater than the sum of its parts. That is the part of coaching that I love. The true measure of a coach is not the win/loss record, but how much they can get out of their team. I think the same can be said of most leadership positions. Great coaches are able to get people to accomplish things they didn’t think they were capable of accomplishing.

Q: How does a leader get the most out of their team?

A: You have to know how to motivate all of the people in your organization; when to get on someone and push them, or when to pat them on the back and encourage them. Every person has to be motivated differently. Effective leaders know how to push those individual buttons. Another challenge with leadership is it to get people to willingly sacrifice. Members of any organization team must be willing to sacrifice personal glory for the betterment of the team. An effective leader is able to communicate this to their team in order to inspire greater team success.

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: Professionally, I would say Ray Fashano, the former Superintendent of Schools in Jamestown. He was a very strong leader. He was very smart and was good at identifying talent and putting people in a position to make the organization stronger. He was also very honest. You always knew where you stood with him. The other person is my wife, Karen. I am very blessed to have a spouse who makes me a better person and also holds me accountable to being the man that God wants me to be.

Q: Why is a leader’s commitment to the organization so important?

A: As a leader, you have to be committed. A saying we have in our locker room is, “You’re either in or you’re out. There’s no such thing as life in between.” Life in between is for the mediocre. If you really want to succeed as a leader you must be willing to sacrifice, put in the necessary time and become a master at your craft. If the leader of an organization is committed, then there will be a greater chance the followers will be committed as well.

Q: What are some characteristics you believe every leader should possess?

A: Integrity and honesty. A leader must conduct themselves (appropriately) and make strong ethical and moral decisions. It’s essential that people know your word is good. If people in your organization don’t trust you, you’re in trouble.

Q: As a leader, what is a challenge that you regularly face in your career?

A: In life, there is always going to be adversity; failure is a part of success. Strong leaders turn negatives into positives and help the team grow from those experiences. After tough losses I will ask my team, “Are we going to get bitter or get better?”

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 nearly 15 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 ecipolla@jlnick.com or visit JL Nick and Associate’s website at www.jlnick.com.