Lessons From The School Of Life

Dr. Lillian Vitanza Ney

Editor’s note: Periodically, this weekly business column will feature a respected leader in the region who has been in their career long enough to have learned a lesson or two worth sharing. This week features Dr. Lillian Vitanza Ney.

You will have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the featured leader’s journey that led them to their current role. Most importantly, you will gain valuable insight from helpful “real life” lessons they’ve learned along the way. It is my hope that these life lessons will help to inspire a spirit of continued personal development for everyone who reads it. Enjoy.

Q: Can you tell us about your career background?

Ney: I am the retired Vice President of Medical Affairs, and Medical Director at WCA Hospital. After retirement, I was elected to the Jamestown City Council, serving as President of the Council for part of my term, which lasted for eight years. Additionally, I served on the Board of Public Utilities for the eight-year period that I was a member of City Council.

Q: You’ve done so much for our region through your involvement and leadership on various boards. What are you currently doing?

Ney: I currently serve as Chair of the Jamestown Strategic Planning and Partnerships Commission’s Health Care Action Team; Chair of the Mental Health Association Advisory Board, and the Jamestown Public School’s Promise Fund. I am also a member and Co-Vice President of the Northwest Arena Board (Jamestown City Center Development Corporation) and the Chautauqua County Board of Health. In addition, I am a member of the Board of Trustees at Jamestown Community College, and the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation where I served as Co-Chair for several years.

Q: Wow. That is very impressive. Your passion for continual betterment of our region is evident. What prior involvement did you have on regional boards?

Ney: Over the years, I served on numerous other boards, including Chautauqua Institution; Jamestown Music Association; Jamestown Youth Orchestra; Reg Lenna Civic Center; Roger Tory Peterson Institute, and the Jamestown Guarantee Effort (now renamed the Chautauqua Educational Opportunity). I was also a long-time member of Jamestown’s Strategic Planning Commission, and served numerous years as Co-Chair. I also spent over 20 ears as a board member of the Gebbie Foundation and served two terms as preisdent. I feel that experience was extremely helpful in learning valuable lessons about our city, our opportunities and our challenges.

Q: What is your educational background?

Ney: I earned a bachelor’s of arts degree from Wells College; a doctorate in medicine from University of Buffalo and completed my internship, medical residency and cardiology fellowship at Buffalo General Hospital. Locally, I attended Jamestown Public Schools.

Q: What qualities/characteris-tics/attributes are important for a leader to demonstrate?

Ney: There are many in which I believe and always try to keep in mind. In no specific order of importance, they are:

To be service centered; treat others with respect; maintain a strong adherence to ethical standards; demonstrate a reasonable amount of humility and empathy; listen to hear what others are saying; act as a champion, role model or mentor for others as you encourage them; use your position of power for good; be open to input to learn from others and (involve others through) collaboration, inclusiveness, and maintenance of a consensus philosophy; keep values at the center of your actions and lead with courage, transparency, honesty and integrity; (commit to) lifelong learning, and demonstrate trust, critical thinking, good judgment, optimism, hopefulness and strong communication/relationship building skills. It’s also important to adapt to rapidly moving technological advances without losing balance and centeredness. Amidst all of this, it’s important to maintain a balance between work, home, recreation and restoration.

Q: What observations have you made of individuals in leadership positions; those who have been successful and those who have not? What has led to their success or lack thereof?

Ney: Successful leaders have a mission, vision and goals in mind for the greater good — not what is best for them personally. They understand that the status quo is not acceptable and have the courage, determination and sheer will to forge ahead. They have the courage to say what needs to be said, even though it can be extremely difficult and they may be taking a chance. They work hard and are dedicated to the tasks at hand. They have shared their vision with others, influenced and empowered those around them, built trusting relationships and together moved their organization ahead. They work with other leaders and organizations around them to learn about their goals, work through and across boundaries and arrive at common goals to collectively move their community forward. They work together in a respectful and meaningful way and value networking and the creation of partnerships. Leaders (who are) not as successful seem more single focused. They are not as ready to be open to the suggestions and participation of others. They prefer to work alone instead of partnering. (They believe that) maintaining the status quo is comfortable, perhaps even felt to be safer. However, the good part is that many important and successful characteristics can be learned and patterned from leaders who excel in their roles.

Elizabeth P. Cipolla SPHR, SHRM-SCP is a leadership communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, employment branding, professional development and executive coaching for nearly 20 years. Her leadership experience comes from various industries including marketing, e-commerce, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, aerospace, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at changeagentsee@gmail.com.