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As CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield Inc., Brandy Harris says she finds leadership both rewarding and challenging.
“I truly believe the best leaders adapt their styles based on need, circumstance and audience,” she says.
Sometimes, leadership takes the form of being an active listener, Harris says.
“These moments require me to listen without the intent to respond,” she says. “The things I learn in these spaces help me craft the vision for the organization and ensure the club’s mission is always over and above my ego.”
Harris describes herself as a natural doer, and she says listening and learning were skills she had to refine since taking the helm of BGCS in 2019. The results have been significant, she notes. After listening to parents say they wanted club services in more schools, her team successfully opened four new school sites to provide programming for children.
A leader should also be an informed decision-maker, Harris says. This mindset helped guide the organization through the uncertainty of COVID-19.
“Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield worked hard to provide our members and their families stability and structure during these unstable times,” she says.
During the COVID-19 response and recovery phase, she says BGCS supported over 600 families and 868 children, provided over 44,000 meals, conducted over 3,000 wellness checks, provided more than 450 hours of educational programming and distributed over 3,500 computers, books and activities for club members.
“I truly believe the way our organization shifted and served kids and families during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was incredible,” she says. “From reopening in May 2020 and turning into a ‘school’ to prevent learning loss to serving over 44,000 meals to families who needed them, we shifted our strategy without compromising our mission.”
Finally, Harris says, a leader must be a “trusted, strategic think partner.” This means putting egos aside and being present.
“Our job is far too important to let egos get in the way,” she says, noting the value of teachable moments and giving others the space to thrive in their own areas of expertise, which are not the same as her own.
“I will always surround myself with people who play to my weaknesses,” she says.
Next up for Harris is the challenge of seeing a BGCS teen center – The Risdal Family Center for Great Futures – to fruition. It’s a project that was first thought of two decades ago, and it’s slated to become a 45,000-square-foot building on Grant Avenue Parkway. Plans call for the center to open its doors in August 2024.
Big initiatives require vibrant partnerships, according to Harris, and her desire is to be a connector. She says the best way to serve kids is to partner with agencies that share the BGCS mission.
“I care deeply about this community and believe that when we work together, we can accomplish more than we can individually,” she says.
The first downtown Springfield branch for Arvest Bank opened; a longtime licensed massage therapist became a first-time business owner; and 7 Brew Coffee opened its fourth shop in Springfield.