Growing Natural Leaders

Tompkins County employers are joining with NLI to invest in talented employees and help meet their staff development, diversity hiring and retention, and community engagement goals.

Cornell University, Ithaca College, Alternatives Federal Credit Union, Tompkins Trust, the Tompkins County Health Department, the Human Services Coalition, and Greenstar Coop Market have all selected talented employees to attend NLI's Natural Leaders series to promote staff development and civic engagement.

For participants and their supervisors, the links between NLI participation, increased civic engagement and enhanced workplace performance and leadership were evident.

Carl Cornell, Undergraduate Coordinator in Cornell’s Chemistry Department, was one of three Cornell-sponsored employees in the spring 2017 NLI class. The experience, he says, was important in a number of ways. “In a work environment, usually you come in, do your work, and go home,” he observes. “Through NLI, I got to know a different side of the Ithaca community. I met people from diverse backgrounds who are community-minded and looking to help other community-minded people.”

Like many NLI participants, Carl left the group feeling more confident – both at work and in terms of what he can contribute to the community. “Because of my background and the challenges I faced growing up, I’m more open-minded than many of my colleagues,” he says. “But because of that background, I also have felt a lot of self-doubt. NLI showed me that I wasn’t alone. Seeing others [in the NLI group] who were so accomplished have the same doubts as I do really helped. As a result, I feel a lot more confident and better equipped to elevate others who may be doubting themselves.”

In addition to providing an expanded, supportive community network, Carl says, the NLI sessions gave him the time and support to think about how he wanted to impact the community. ”I was looking to become an active member of local government in a non-elected way,” he says. "NLI helped me evaluate the opportunities I have.”

Allison Watkins, Loan Servicer at Alternatives Federal Credit Union, was a Member Services Representative when her supervisor nominated her to be an employer-sponsored participant in the Natural Leaders series in fall 2016.

"As a result of NLI, I’m contributing more as a team member at work,” Alison says. “I used to be really shy and not bring my voice to meetings. NLI gave me a supportive place to voice my opinion to others I didn’t know. Now I am more confident speaking both to people I know and those I may not know at all. NLI also exposed me to different perspectives in the community I didn’t know before. As a result, I find it easier to change my perspective regarding what others are thinking.”

As a result of her NLI experience, Alison joined several staff committees so she “could help out beyond [her] job," and she applied for (and got) a promotion. She also trained for a national crisis text line for people with anxiety and depression where she will volunteer four hours per week.

“I wouldn't have done those things without the NLI experience,” she continues. “Usually, I just want to hang out in my comfort zone. But I went to NLI and pushed my comfort zone. So I was able to push myself again.

In conclusion, Alison says, “Sometimes you just need a good resource to get started. NLI definitely was that for me."

Contact us to learn more.


Margo Hittleman
Natural Leaders Initiative Coordinator
(607) 272-2292 ext.167

Last updated July 26, 2019