“I don’t look at it as me-who-knows-so-much but as working with colleagues,” said Gordan Thibedeau, president and chief executive of United Way of Larimer County. “Mentors are there to help prepare people for that next position.”
His way of doing that is pretty straightforward.
“I ask where does someone want to be in five years’ time and how can the organization or I be helpful in making that happen? I’ve worked with incredibly competent, capable, strong people who happen to be women,” he said. “All they needed was a little encouragement.”
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To those women, his encouragement launched them into careers where they excel.
“Gordan’s dedication to helping women grow in their careers is an extension of his passion to make a difference in his community,” said Keely Mendicino, assistant director for development with Colorado State University Athletics. “Over an 11-year period, he mentored me from a wide-eyed, inexperienced twentysomething who wanted to change the world into a pragmatic leader and businesswoman who is respected in our community.”
“He has taught me the true meaning of service above self and how to lead with integrity and purpose,” said Allison Hines, vice president for resource development with United Way of Larimer County. “He has created a culture where women can learn, grow, take ownership and become leaders in their own right.”
Thibedeau sees human capital as the most important component in an organization and believes that the collective effort is how a business meets its mission. “People have a lot of good ideas and sometimes it just takes effort to get them out and on the table,” he said.
As a leader, Thibedeau feels strongly about the service-above-self philosophy. “It’s not about me or even about the organization,” he said. “It’s about what we are trying to do in the community.”
Maintaining a forward-thinking attitude helps him stay true to that goal. “The evolving nature of philanthropy and the way people think about their relationship to their community is one of the challenges today,” he said. “You have to be thinking ahead rather than looking back.”
For example, a lot of people today live in one community and work someplace else. Rather than continuing to try to meet an organization’s mission by doing what used to work, he said, it’s vital to step outside of the comfort zone.
“Sometimes people ask me, ‘How do you know this is going to work?’ and I say, ‘I don’t, but I know this isn’t working now.’ ”
Analysis, assessment and a strategic approach to problem solving are constantly called for to be successful, he said.
Added Dawn Paepke, senior specialist for community relations with Kaiser Permanente Colorado, “Gordan has set the bar on what it means to lead with integrity, grit and courage.”