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The Evolution of the CEO - Exploring the Link Between Business Leadership and Community Leaders

November 18, 2016
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As seen in NJBIZ

CEO Evolution
We know that leadership takes many forms and is an essential element of any successful endeavor. At the second annual "CEO Evolution" sponsored by Citrin Cooperman and Rutgers Business School, held on November 3, we recognized four CEOs for their exemplary leadership. Although each of the honorees may define success differently, all have achieved a significant level of success in their respective fields. This year’s honorees were Adenah Bayoh, founder of Adenah Bayoh and Companies; Kevin Cummings, president and CEO of Investors Bank; Gene Muller, president of Flying Fish Brewing Co.; and Paul Hoffman, president and CEO of Liberty Science Center. The honorees were recognized not only for their achievements but for their leadership success, and each shared the unique journeys that have brought them to their present roles.

But are leaders compelled to act beyond their role in the business world? Do leaders also have a responsibility to serve their communities? As we learned more about each of the honorees, what stood out was that the reach of each of these leaders extended well beyond their business ventures. The common thread was that each of these leaders held a steadfast belief that there was a significant responsibility to the communities they serve. In fact, some have chosen or directed their business activities expressly because of the needs of their community, which compelled them to take action.

The American Dream
After escaping civil war in Liberia at 9 years old, and immigrating to America, Adenah Bayoh graduated from a U.S. college with a degree in finance. Being familiar with Newark public housing, and while working in banking, Adenah began to invest in real estate. By her mid-twenties, Adenah owned over 40 units. Due in part to her experiences, Adenah felt a deep communal commitment, so when she recognized a pervasive need within her community, she decided to change direction into the restaurant industry. She perceived a void and was compelled to fill it by opening an IHOP restaurant in Irvington. In her own words, she "want[s] to be a change agent in her community" and the restaurant was a means to being one.

Science for Science’ Sake
After running several major, well-known, for-profit businesses, Paul Hoffman brought his leadership skills to the Liberty Science Center. While LSC's service to both children and adults is obvious, Paul's vision of service reaches well beyond the immediate community of Jersey City or even New Jersey. His life-long love of science and its benefits to humankind extends worldwide. Beyond the walls of LSC, Paul envisions a neighboring charter science school with scholarships available to help aspiring young scientists realize their dreams for improving the world through science. Presently, Paul is involved in building what will be the largest planetarium in the western hemisphere and space to house 100 tech and science start-ups in Jersey City, NJ. He believes that today's youth lacks the technological chops that industry needs, and what he calls work that "explores the inter-connectivity between creativity, genius and madness” is essentially a pursuit to preserve the child-like wonder of science and to share science for science’ sake.

Community Culture
Another example of leadership that reaches beyond the business is given by Kevin Cummings of Investors Bank, whose company’s three day on-boarding procedure for new employees includes immediately establishing the importance of community involvement as part of the culture of an organization. After two days of orientation and training, new hires spend a day at the Morristown soup kitchen to stress the importance of community involvement. The enduring commitment to community is central to the culture of the bank and is embraced by its employees. Espousing Winston Churchill’s words, “you make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give,” Kevin has made community leadership a considerable part of his CEO role.

Share the Love
At its most basic level, entrepreneurial spirit and leadership provides jobs to the community and stimulates commerce that would not otherwise exist. Noble leadership also seeks input from the community it serves. Gene Muller, founder of Flying Fish Brewing Co., started his company as a virtual enterprise, which enabled people to help select and name beers to be brewed, volunteer as tasters and even apply to be brewers. Gene feels that this extended community connection has helped Flying Fish grow into the largest microbrewery in New Jersey. As a continuing commitment to the community, the company website includes several pages on business lessons learned, including advice on issues such as starting a business, financing and real estate. “I love beer” says Gene, and the most rewarding part of it, he adds, is sharing this love with his community – sharing beer while also creating an environment for other possibilities and other things to happen. “At the end of the day, I can have a beer and say I am working” and now others in his community can enjoy beer, while doing other things.