Leaders As Hosts Q&A Series: Vinny Gebhart (LRI ’15)

Rhode Island leaders are asked about "Leaders as Hosts," LRI's 2018 theme.

Vinny Gebhart (LRI '15)Leadership Rhode Island recently asked Vinny Gebhart (LRI ’15), LRI Board Member and Director of Implementation at Upserve, about his perspective on LRI’s 2018 theme, “Leader As Host.”

What does it mean to you to be an effective Leader As Host?

To be an effective leader as host, the individual must believe in their heart-of-hearts that the process, its outcome (good or bad), and all resultant credit or honor belongs not to the individual, but to the whole. This must be done while simultaneously acknowledging that the failures always remain with that same leader. This leadership style is devoid of ego, and suppresses the hero persona that exists within each of us. When the leader is the hero, there is no room for the group to flourish. The highest honor an effective Leader as Host will encounter is for the team they have convened to create, deliver, or execute an idea organically which originated from that very structure the leader sponsored.

What has been your proudest professional or personal moment as a Leader As Host?

As someone who has worked with many rising talents within several organizations, my greatest professional experiences is to see a young person set a goal, identify the steps to reach it, and to deliver an outcome that surpasses all preconceived expectations. When the individual is able to surprise even themselves at their accomplishments, that is the definition of success. On a more personal note, fatherhood has provided me with an incredible opportunity to watch my son develop through his toddler years. I never push him to approach something one way or another, I never tell him what is right and what is wrong. I question his reasoning, his logic, and his motivation – help him understand concepts that may be new, and watch as he pieces the information together to change the world he lives in. His kind, sweet nature is a blessing to my wife and I and to anyone who has the joy of encountering him. In many ways I have learned more from him than anyone in my life.

When does the Leader As Host style not work well?

At times, the leader as host style can appear to lengthen cycles required to make decisions or execute on plans. Often, this is wholly incorrect. Building coalitions through consensus and mutual understanding are the foundation of long and lasting ideas, process, and products. While the ramp period will take considerably more time and effort, the end result is a group of dedicated individuals moving collectively towards a common goal, with mutual understanding, and an aligned vision. Anyone who tells you its faster to offer edicts is fooling themselves into thinking their projects were successful in spite of themselves. They would likely learn, if they looked deeper at a “success”, that behind the scenes there was another leader whose “host style” has a significant, yet understated impact.

In an era of blockbuster superhero movies and a U.S. President who stated during his recent campaign, “I alone can fix it. I will restore law and order,” is Leader As Host an outdated concept or one not applicable to current times? Why, if at all, should Leadership Rhode Island emphasize this leadership style?

Without rain, who would appreciate the sun. Without sadness, what would it mean to be happy? Without bluster and bravado, what would overcome inertia? The most valuable voice to a leader as host is the dissenting opinion – even when expressed in an unproductive manner. The exercise of leader as host is to glean the actual objection, the “sticking point”, and to better integrate the interests of the each party for the benefit of the whole.

What Rhode Island problem or challenge do you think could be better resolved with an effective Leader(s) As Host to convene?

Any large issue with a long term impact – schools & education, economic investments, business climate.

* Learn more about “Leaders As Hosts” through the online essay, “Leadership In the Age of Complexity: From Leader to Host,” by Margaret Wheatley and Debbie Frieze.