How to Channel Your Inner CEO

Yvette L. Campbell, CEO of the Harlem School of the Arts, shares how to become a great leader.
Credit: Thinkstock

Want to be the big boss? Yvette L. Campbell, CEO and president of the Harlem School of the Arts, shares five characteristics of great leaders.

1. Plan Ahead (Think three years out)
Give yourself time to plan greatness and to see your vision to fruition (partnerships and collaborations take time). Every day spend time planning for future projects. For example, schedule a 30-minute block of each day in your schedule to brainstorm about future products, programs or big ideas. These kinds of endeavors take time to plan and think through in order to be successful. This will eliminate last-minute chaos in the future.

2. Budget for Success
Accounting is not so hard! It should be transparent and simple. When thinking about undertaking a project or implementing a great idea, think about how much it will cost to develop and produce, create a budget and a cash flow timeline. This means you will know when you have to pay for something and if you need to start saving now or get investors or,in our case as a non-profit, donors. Most businesses have working capital to fund projects. Once you set your budget, stick to it and compare often how you are doing. What did we plan to spend (budgeted) vs. what we actually spent (actual)? Why is there a difference (variance)?

3. Best Practices – Know Your Business
How does your business compare to competitors in the same industry or field? Are they succeeding and doing it better? This is comparative analysis, which helps you measure how your business measures up and areas for improvement. It also enables you not to reinvent the wheel. For example, at Harlem School of the Arts, we know that healthy non-profit organizations are depending less and less on foundation and government revenues and more on individuals for sustainability. We are moving our fundraising efforts in that direction.

4. Make Tough Decisions & Don’t Be Afraid of Making the Wrong Ones
Making the right decisions can be daunting and tough. Not making decisions when you are asked to or are in a position of power is a sin. Here is what I try to do when I have a tough decision to make. Take some time to think, weigh the options, figure out the best (most clear, not always perfect) and don’t waiver. Everyone will not be in agreement, but if you make decisions from a position of wanting to make things better, you can’t go wrong….well, maybe you can, but at least you will sleep at night.

5. Surround Yourself with Strong Positive Performers
Get better people on the bus! It is easy to see the problems (or potholes), but much harder to see the solutions….I only see solutions. The glass is always half full and everything is possible within reason. Therefore, it is important for progress and growth to hire people or surround yourself with people that see the possibilities. This applies to friends and colleagues. Negativity brings you down and failure is just a way to see what doesn’t work. Humanity’s greatest achievements have been discovered by dreamers. Hire the next Steve Jobs and watch your business grow!

About Yvette L. Campbell

Photo Credit: Lisa Hancock Photography

Photo Credit: Lisa Hancock Photography

Yvette L. Campbell has served as President & CEO of the Harlem School of the Arts (HSA) since January 2011. Under her leadership, HSA has raised nearly $10 million, including an extraordinary gift of $6 million from the Herb Alpert Foundation. During her short tenure, with the support of a newly engaged and highly competent board of directors, the School has eliminated its inherited debt, rebuilt and increased its endowment, and been restored as one of this nation’s most valued arts institutions. You can follow her on Twitter at @HSAceo.