This month we sit down with Bill Rose, President and CEO of the Kalamazoo Nature Center, as he talks about how he developed his approach to leadership.
Tell us how you got to where you are today (positions held, career shifts, etc)
I went to graduate school to work on my Ph.D. so I could follow an academic career path at a university. While completing my degree, I began to realize that I had a deep passion for conservation and environmental action. A friend of mine told me about a job opening as a plant ecologist with The Nature Conservancy that she thought I should apply for. She was right. I got the job and that started me down a path of working for nature and environmental private nonprofit organizations. While working as a plant ecologist, I began to discover a latent interest that I had in administrative and fundraising work. I started raising money so I could hire more people to do more work. When a job opening came up in The Nature Conservancy for a Regional Director position, I jumped at the chance. This gave me the opportunity to further my interest in the business and leadership side of nonprofit work. After a number of years in this position, an executive search firm contacted me about working for the Kalamazoo Nature Center. It looked like a perfect fit that would allow me to combine all the things that I had a passion for: nonprofit leadership in the area of environment/nature; opportunity to continuing applying my scientific training/education; and, be active in an educational organization.
What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?
I love Kalamazoo for many reasons. It is a progressive and philanthropic community that embraces change which leads to so many good things for all people in our community. The cultural and natural features of this community bring richness and depth that is not often found in a community of our size. The institutions of higher learner present us with the challenge to stay fresh in our ideas about how our community continues to stay relevant.
What guides or principles do you rely most upon?
- Follow your passion.
- Have fun.
- Be a leader, not just an administrator.
- Define what the culture of your organization should be and continuously work to build that culture.
- Strive to exceed the “customer’s” expectations.
- Work toward constant quality improvements in every area of your organization.
- Society is constantly changing so you need to change too or you begin to fall behind
Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?
Bob Tower (retired from Tower Pinkster), he taught me to be a good fundraiser and helped me begin to develop my network of contacts. I learned how important it is to be a good listener.
What has been one of your biggest learning moments?
I attended the week long program on leadership at the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina in the mid-1980s where I learned many of the fundamentals of “leadership.” Another big aha moment came in the early 1990s when I attended Disney University’s program on high quality customer service where I learned the significance of establishing a positive culture in your organization.
What’s an average day like for you at work?
I’m constantly juggling a thousand balls while remaining focused on a few key strategic items.
What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?
Not much. I am really comfortable knowing that the Nature Center is a successful organization that can always do more but satisfied that we are making a difference.
How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?
Being engaged with professional support organizations locally and nationally. This includes: Meeting with peers; Constant continuing education; Staying up with the news, and; Always looking for ways to network.
What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?
Follow your passion, have fun and strive for a balanced life.
What do you geek?
For me that has changed over time. Now that I have adult children and grandchildren, on opposite coasts, I love to engage with them in any way that I can. I love to play on the water at our cottage.