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Leadership Pittsburgh's Aradhna Oliphant Goes Live on Business as Usual

Business as Usual

Leadership Pittsburgh is the foremost multi-disciplinary leadership identification, enrichment and networking organization in southwestern Pennsylvania dedicated to developing a robust pipeline of diverse civic leaders to serve the region.

We are thrilled to welcome Aradhna Malhorta Oliphant, President and CEO of Leadership Pittsburgh, to overview the organization and how it prepares our present and future leaders. Deeply committed to community building, Aradhna is actively engaged with the academic, public policy, corporate and nonprofit sectors.

Leadership Pittsburgh applications for the 2021-2022 cohort are due the first Friday in June for the class that starts in September. Get more details on application requirements and join us for what promises to be a lively and engaging conversation.


Good afternoon, everyone. This is Audrey Russo, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, I get to wrap up the week having so much fun, we have a lot to pack in. We have a rotten old final formerly introduce her in a moment as the president and CEO of leadership Pittsburgh, I want to give a shout out to deep appreciation as always to Huntington bank for the work that they've done in supporting us for as long as they have. Jonathan Kersting is with us, as always, he's VP of Marketing, and all things storytelling. And then of course, we want to give recognition to 40 by 80. That's the wholly owned subsidiary of the Pittsburgh tech Council. That's the latitude and longitude of Pittsburgh, and you're going to hear more about the work that we're doing in there, which includes apprenticeships, so we're very excited, as well as our support for entrepreneurs. So listen, Jonathan's with us he is going to keep his eye on the chat. Make sure that we if we have time for questions, you know, we will log them over to Rodney Olson. So I am bringing to the forefront. Now our guests are Robin olifant. She is someone who has been at the helm of leadership Pittsburgh for quite a while we're gonna find out a little bit about a ragna the woman, not just the work that she does, because there's really a lot of magic in terms of who she is and how she has really brought a lot to our region. And sometimes people just don't know. So we use I use this as an opportunity to let our guests show off to a little bit about how they're doing and how are you holding up during COVID? etc. So with with that, please welcome Rodman rotten Oh, font, thank you so much for being here.

Thank you, Audrey. It's a It's a pleasure and an honor to be with a friend.

It is friends. It is pretty cool, isn't it? We have you have been at the helm of leadership Pittsburgh For how long?

over 15 years now?

I stopped counting. You know, I think I stopped counting I think almost as long as almost as long as you've been at the PCT. Right?

I yeah, I stopped counting. I stopped counting for right. We're just having fun.

We are having too much fun. And we are making hopefully our graduates and your members are making a difference in the region and the community and, and the economy. And, you know, it's it's a it's a joy.

Well, how have you been holding up during COVID? Are there any big thoughts? Anything that you just sort of want, you know, want to share? Because being a leader and doing the work that you do? You know, it's a lot of connecting with people, right? Yeah, it's laughing. She's laughing? Ah, yeah. Because you know,

as, as Brian Kennedy, who's one of our I mean, one of your leadership, teammates, and one of our wonderful alarms now is we are all of our programs are very high touch. That's what distinguishes our program, right? programs. And so it was the first three, four months last spring were really difficult, really difficult. But once those were passed, both for foreign leadership, Pittsburgh, as well as, like you, Audrey, I'm involved with a lot of community stuff like this committee, and that special task force and all of that, which is all a part of community leadership. They were, I'm sure you were being pulled into meetings, and you know, and all of that kind of stuff. So it was hard. The first three, four months were very hard. And then it was it was almost like, okay, here's a new challenge. How do we keep the spirit of excellence? You know, maybe because of the challenge.

That's really interesting. So what you know, let's talk about leadership, Pittsburgh, how long it's been around and what the focus of the work is.

Sure. Thank you. So leadership, Pittsburgh incorporated is sort of like the umbrella organization of our programs. We run several programs. We've been around almost 39 years now. We were created as a an idea out of the local Chamber of Commerce at that time, when the leaders the the fathers of the city, and yes,

they were men.

They were only fathers at that time. They

weren't mothers and

the fathers of the city at that time both for your I bet your audience knows that you and I both have a chip on our shoulder about women. Leadership anyway. So. So at that time, they they figured that the days of the old time very rich families were coming to pass where, you know, they're one person I will not name the families, all of us know the family is one one, so and so married the granddaughter of so and so. And that's how the community spirit, the wealth economy got got passed down and they had a spirit of community, right, you can't you can't take that away. They felt that they belong to Pittsburgh, but all of those generational changes were taking place. Plus, the steel demise had hit. And so the fathers of the region of others of the city at that time they they looked around the country and found this model called the community leadership model. The idea there was to get the business sector folks to care about the community. So I say even today, my board members say that our job is not to get the tree huggers to hug trees tighter. Our job is to get the people who may not see the trees may not definitely not the forest, to realize that there is this forest called community, the psychology called community that their business depends on a solid community. And the community depends on a solid connected business sector. So that's why we've got very strong business roots. We were created 38 years ago with the one program called leadership, Pittsburgh, and then we've evolved.

Well, so how many classes have there been and tell us a little bit about leadership? Pittsburgh, because I don't want people to assume that they really understand unless they've been through the program. And I do know that you are still accepting applications. I think until today, is that correct?

Maybe writing applications that are senior leaders program. I think Brian Kennedy, when he went through, it was probably the youngest one in his class. But so yeah, and the senior leaders program leadership, Pittsburgh, the application deadline is actually First Friday in June, is the application deadline for if you want like a $300 or $500 discount on tuition after you've been accepted, and it's not an early acceptance, it's an early submission just to help facilitate no fault. So leadership, Pittsburgh is all about community issues. And the idea there is that these business sector leaders primarily, and by the way, I'm putting Highmark and UPMC, and University of Pittsburgh and CMU and all of them in that part. So the economic generators, so let's take PNC Bank, you have Huntington, let's take Huntington bank, Huntington, great bank, by the way, great leadership too. And Huntington, an EDP or an SVP from Huntington would be a solid candidate for leadership, Pittsburgh, whereas a branch manager at Huntington would be a good candidate might be a good candidate for our emerging young leaders program called ldi. So leadership, so ldi is about skills within a community context, leadership, Pittsburgh is not about skills, leadership, it's is about issues and public policy. So these are folks who have achieved a certain level of significance in their organization in their own fields. And the idea is to connect their strengths and their organizational and community influence with the needs of the community to open their eyes minds, and help them walk through doors that they may not have walked through before for the sake of the community. So I'll stop there about leadership, Pittsburgh, but it's that level, and it's about issues. Right? And so and then how long does the cohort run its school year. So and they meet once a month, around an issue of importance to the region. There is a leadership framework, and there's a lot of peer coaching that goes on. So there is some leadership content, but the focus is on issues in that program.

So I'm always blown away since since I've been in my role, the tech council how many people will say and I just see someone put it out in the chat damn Griffin. Oh, I was. I was in leadership class. 13. I was in leadership class 15. I still see my people or they run into people and go we were in the same class. And the thing that's just you know, awesome. Obviously there's cohesion that occurs. But the thing that's really fabulous about it is building relationships outside of your, your, your internal work. That to me is what makes this powerful is that it's not just inside the organization.

And you know, Audrey, the once again, there is a concept called potent networks. And I've written about it, but it's not my concept that someone from it was published first in the Harvard Business Review, not my article, the concept. And, you know, it's not about networks that get created because you bump into each other at a bar, nothing wrong with that, and you exchange a business card, but potency of networks is you learn together for the sake of something else, which is bigger than you. And that's, that's the spirit of the network. That's what binds these people together, and they become friends. And you and I both know, through the work of the Technology Council, you know, that networks make good things happen faster, or can make good things happen faster, sometimes they are not the sometimes they're evil networks, right? We can start good things from happening. But the kinds of people who get selected to our leadership Pittsburgh program wouldn't be attracted to our program, if they were looking to do something evil, they because we're a community leadership program. We talk about community issues.

Let's look at what Jonathan, why don't you read what Larry talks about? And Larry is also I believe he's in a class people are posting about different classes that they're in. So why

might you grab this? I've seen this and says, we'd love to hear from you on what you see missing? Or is the great opportunity to amplify the Pittsburgh leadership development community as we emerge from this pandemic together.

So I need to understand that question a little bit more before I assume that I understand what they're saying. Or Yeah, I'll

kind of go through it again here. So the idea is, as we're emerging from this pandemic, is there an opportunity or challenge, and maybe that that's facing us one or the other, as we emerged when it comes to developing more leadership in the region, as you guys have been doing, obviously, for years and years with?

So what I do feel is that it's not just because of the pandemic, but we are a divided region. We are a divided country

very much. Yeah.

And so how do we facilitate good, authentic conversations across the divide? If I keep talking only to Andre, who lives on the east end of Pittsburgh, and I do not talk to my wonderful friends in Butler County, or beaver County, or I talk only to my nonprofit buddies, because, because that's what we do. No change is going to happen. And that adaptation across the boundaries, and that's why I think adaptation or coming out of the pandemic, if I that's that skill has the need for that skill has become even sharper, both internally as a leader, as well as a community member crossing boundaries. People call it agile learning and all of that, you know, you can wordsmith those things, but I think you got you got to learn to adapt and understand. And that happens only through real conversations. It happened through social media, I'm sorry.

And it happens intentionally. You're talking about intentionality? Yes, I think that's part of the program for leadership. Pittsburgh, number one is overall, it's been intentionality. But it's a really good reminder in terms of practice, for us to make sure that we are reaching the whole region in our region, if you look at all of southwestern Pennsylvania is really quite diverse. And we think many of us who are in these roles think we know, but we just don't, we just don't know one of the things that I've had a chance to learn in terms of listening over this period of time that we just really don't know. So glimpse, lets that sort of gets me into this next question. Because there are programs that you've done like veterans, there's some new things that you have done right to sort of broaden your reach. I mean, you even have a program that talks about on board and board matching, that's, you know, sort of helping So can you talk about those initiatives or those programs so people can get a sense of all the work that you do.

Thank you, Audrey for that opportunity. So leadership is where we talked about the senior leaders program, which was why we were created initially and that's why everyone says oh, I those who have gone through any of our programs, I went through leadership Pittsburgh, that is only one of our programs are companion program is the Emerging Leaders Program leadership development initiative where the focus is on the word development. This is for the high potential stars within companies and organizations. And we there we talk about skills as they as they can benefit the person, the organization and the community. So that that's a skills focused our Community Leadership Program. For veterans, C. l. c. v. is, once again, it's not a leadership training program for veterans, because people would call me stupid if I started, you know, I stood up in front of the room and tried to teach military veterans leadership, right. It's not about leadership, it's about how do they bring the leadership competencies that they develop within the military, to the community, because our community needs it, and they feel disconnected with the community, they have been away serving our, our country, our needs, and even the God's God's women and God's men, you know, they work and then they and then they have their training. So they're not connected to the community. And they have this high desire to provide value. But they find themselves struggling to provide value in big corporate America, or even small, small business America, because they have a high sense of purpose. So what CLC v does is connect that passion and the skills to our region. That's what tlcb is about.

That was really exciting. And so do the people. Can you talk a little bit about the configuration of the cohort? Are they working in, in different settings? Are there any trends that you see there anything that we can do across the tech community to help support those efforts?

I would love thank you for that offer. Because as you all probably know, military veterans have one of the highest rates of business formation, because they're very entrepreneurial, they are not afraid to take risks. And so the chances are that there are some young veterans in your post 911. Our program is geared towards post 911 veterans, that they are interested in learning more about the community and connecting into the community, we'd love to see their applications. It's a fully grant funded program. So the barrier to participation is very low. And, and so yes, we would love to see some applications. It's post 911, you asked about what are the trends we see, actually, that's got the biggest variety of people of all of our programs. So there are students who are getting, you know, who are taking advantage of the grants through the military for education. And so they there are students, and there are PhD years, and there are a God's women and God's men, and there are people who are like a VP at a bank, but happened to be a veteran, military military veteran, so you could be currently serving as a guards person. Or I mean, you know, or be have served in the military.

It could be like in the RTC and just doing temporary military work.

Not a current student in the Iraqi state. Okay, good. So

if they go to the website that we've posted out there, is there information on the website about this?

Yes. And I think that deadline is today. So there's anyone listening. And if anyone is a member of the of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, and is interested, send a note to Audrey or Brian, and they'll send me a note and we can talk about the flexibility in

the deadline.

So So what about the onboard program and the board matching program? Talk about that one.

So the leadership on board program is a companion or a successor program to our ldi, our young leaders program, as well as to our CLC VR Veterans Program, whereby we place a certain number of select graduates of those two programs on area nonprofit boards in a guest capacity. So there's no fiduciary requirement. And the concept there is that our young people get to learn from the best about board governance. I don't know about you, Audrey, but when I first joined the board, I didn't have that and I felt like an idiot. I mean, what is this motion? Second, I had to have no board training, you know, and I just sat there like, okay, am I supposed to speak so this is meant for that to take away? hesitation. And then our region also complains, we don't get fresh blood. Here's the fresh blood. So the Technology Council or red board or anyone wants to have a guest board member. These are highly trained people from different companies whom they can reach, you know, and then maybe, maybe the young people say, Well, we are interested in the mission of homeless children's village, right, and we want to serve here and the company can invite them or not invite them. So that's leadership on board. Think about it as a guest placement. Leadership placement is completely different. And we hope to invest a lot more into it in the coming years, whereby we place graduates of our leadership, it's our program on area nonprofit boards. So any nonprofit organization, which is looking for board members can reach out to us and say, hey, how do I get access to people who are graduating from our classes? I see your doggie at the back. So can you see a dog in

the back? Yeah, it's not your dog. And hopefully, they're not absolutely barking. But you can see. Yeah,

so did I answer your question, Audrey?

Yeah, that's great. And so is there something called pop up Pittsburgh? Ah,

yes, there is. It's actually the classes are young leaders class or ldi. class started those. They're basically Community Impact projects focused on on a neighborhood in the region that is emerging. And through these community impact projects, the class of ldi, our young leaders class, tries to walk alongside that emerging neighborhood to showcase that neighborhood in a bright light, or do something that is of significance to that neighborhood, as a part of their ldi curriculum. So think of it as a live living, breathing case study, that they get to flex the leadership skills that they are learning about in the curriculum in a setting where they don't have positional authority, so no one has to listen to them. And that's where true leadership really emerges. Right?

called influence. Right? Yep.

That's that leadership pop up has the community impact project has taken the shape of pop up in some years. So.

So there is a question real quick for chip Daugherty? Jonathan, you want to grab that

question here, too. Does leadership Pittsburgh had a list of graduates that a board nominee committee could consult with doing due diligence on potential new board members,

our list of our graduates is online. But you will have to any any company will have to contact us to say and there's no charge for it. It's it's something that we do as a part of our mission delivery, and then we will share it with some of our graduates. And mostly we share it with our recent LP classes, so they can reach out to us.

So one of the things that I've really learned, you know, particularly during COVID, is that the rural parts of southwestern Pennsylvania and across all of America have really been overlooked. Right. We've been wrestling with broadband and access to transportation, etc. How does leadership Pittsburgh take its work beyond the borders of what you and I know in terms of Allegheny County, I mean, even Butler County, how do we take it? How do you take it beyond that? Yeah. So

do you have a peek into my vision? document? I don't know. But it's like you I don't

know. It's it's not Yeah.

So. Yeah. So that's another part of, I guess, expansion that we are great at. And we have, you know, we have some, some ideas about that. But by the way, currently, in our senior leaders class, we already have representation, good representation from Butler and from Westmoreland and from Washington County. So we are but what we are thinking about is a sort of us program beyond leadership, Pittsburgh, so where people who are graduates of our proof of leadership Expert program, and graduates of similar risk programs from outside the outside Allegheny County, sorry that stilly I'm going to mute myself, why don't you?

That's fine. We're used to dogs. I have two of them. People have heard them before. It's okay. So you're looking to extend that and I got a peek into what your vision is. So Rodney, do you remember when a whole bunch of us went to back in the day when we traveled to remember when we went to Bilbao, Spain? Yes, you can. You can't talk you can you can talk You can go back on you can still still barking.

Yeah, I was I know Brian Kennedy had shut me up. He had had heard enough of me he wasn't letting me unmute

reflection what we do have when we were in Bilbao

that there was so much similarity between what we could what they were doing what what our potential was, how do we build those connections? When are you taking the next trip? And

And will you know me, I've always want to go somewhere, and I can't believe that we haven't gone anywhere. We Where are we going next? Brian? Are we going on a on a trip? Where are we going? Glasgow. With Glasgow that's in Glasgow, we might go to Glasgow for CLP 26. And I think that's in the fall by Brian. Okay, so we might go to Glasgow. So, Rod? No, that's the next that's the next trip. And one of the no damn Griffin here. And the trip was an inspiration for rad. There were a lot of things that we did. That to me was an example of leadership. Pittsburgh, we were all from different domains, different expertise. But we all had the objective of of exploring what we could be doing better on and working on things both together. And as well as things that are larger than than ourselves. So to me, it was amazing, because your conversations and what we the relationships we forged were just so insanely positive. So Rhonda, when are we going live? What are you going back to being in real time?

September is what our plan is.

Nice. Okay,

we are we are all ready. You know, we are we are real time. We are synchronous, all of our programs are real time they are not webcasts. But in person, if that's what you meant, in person, September,

sorry, I mean, yeah, face to face, touching, touching someone else, safely, safely, maybe not safely touching someone else. As we wrap up, you know, you haven't just been immersed in this whole work of leadership. And we heard you know about your vision about the work ahead, what what else do you want to say to all of us, in terms of that you have the opportunity right now, in terms of your work in terms of the region. Anything in terms of what you learned, I know you're been passionate about inclusion, and diversity and making sure that our voices are heard, is there anything that you want to make sure that we all really know, in terms of your work and the leadership that you've had, and continue to have

your kind I would, I would talk more about the community and the work of the organization. Before fragmentation we have across race, across gender across age across the regions, as as you were pointing out, that has to be dealt with. Our region is continuing to fall behind. You know, I'd love to paint a very rosy picture of our region. The reality is that we have headwinds, just in demographics. We cannot take this for granted. We cannot say Okay, come September, we'll all be outside and everything will be back to normal, and everything will be fine. And we can go on as usual. Now, we have to amp ourselves up even more than pre pandemic, and how are we going to do it together? And we cannot do it together. Until we stop just yelling at each other whomsoever we are, whatever our viewpoints may be. We have to listen. Not everyone is wrong all the time.

Good point. Well, listen, on that note. I want to thank you, thank you for your work. We put the link out there. Let people get connected. She is someone that is easy to reach, you can find her. She might be safe at home right now. But she is working diligently pivoting the organization. She's worked relentlessly to keep the work forging ahead. So I want to thank Robin olifant, my friend, my colleague, a woman who brings a lot of life to the work that she does, and really appreciate that. Thank you for joining us today.

Thank you.

Thank you so much, Audrey for this opportunity. Always great to see you, as they say see you in the neighborhood.

See you in the neighborhood. So Jonathan, what's in the neighborhood On Monday,

Monday is gonna be fantastic. We have Christina kasota, who's the CEO, the Allegheny County Airport Authority. Joining us for an update on all things around the modernization project as well as all the new flights and people are starting to fly again. So it feels like things are coming back and she's gonna give us the full update on Monday. That's great.

Thank you again, Radha. Thank you all leadership. Pittsburgh, grads. We're all on this. This call everyone stay safe. Have an amazing weekend.

Thank you, too.

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