WHAT IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT ROLE AS A LEADER?
JIM RITSEMA: A leader needs to establish a vision for the organization and then get out of the way to let others do their job to achieve that vision. Along the way, they have to stay available for coaching and mentoring.
JON RUMOHR: The most important role I have as a leader is to be a facilitator for my team, making sure that they have the resources necessary to be successful. Those resources might be physical or mental—a leader has to provide both.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THAT YOU SEE FACING LEADERS TODAY?
JIM: Managing expectations. We live in a time where everyone gets everything they want right away from the internet. Some of the things we do in leadership don’t happen right away.
If you’re changing the culture or even a vision, it’s not going
to happen overnight.
JON: The biggest challenge today is time. Everyone has some form of technology on them wherever they go. Whether it’s from your iPhone or iWatch, you’re always getting a media blast. It makes it a constant challenge to manage time efficiently and put people first.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE GOING INTO A LEADERSHIP POSITION FOR THE FIRST TIME?
JIM: Simple: stay true to yourself, speak the truth, and do what you know is right.
JON: Be genuine, be kind, be who you are, and be natural. Don’t be someone that you’re not just because you’re in a leadership role and think you need to act a certain way. People pick up on that very quickly.
WHAT IS THE KEY TO DEVELOPING THE NEXT GENERATION OF LEADERS?
JIM: The focus should be on soft skills, like emotional intelligence with empathy, communication and listening, and critical thinking. The basics of doing a job can
be taught, but the soft skills come from
JON: Young people are getting leadership experience in college, whether as a leader in their hall or on a sports team. So, being able to identify and mentor young people early
is the most essential part of the process.
WHAT RESOURCE HAS HELPED YOU BECOME A BETTER LEADER?
JIM: Executive coaching. My coach is someone who I can bounce ideas and concerns off of in real time. You can’t beat getting feedback from an expert.
JON: My mentors have been my best resource. There are countless people that I could mention throughout the Kalamazoo area who have shaped me as a leader, going back to my time in college at Western Michigan University (WMU).
WHAT RENEWS YOU?
JIM: Just getting away and unplugging from the day-to-day stuff helps me relax and recharge my batteries. Spending time with family and friends makes all the difference.
JON: My family renews me. My daughter is two and a half, and she’s into everything. My wife and I joke that we need to keep a good pair of running shoes around the house because we can’t keep up with her. I also enjoy working in my wood shop, designing projects from scratch and watching them come together.
IF YOU WERE GUARANTEED SUCCESS IN ANY FIELD, WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO DO?
JIM: I would be a singer-songwriter. I like listening to alternative music; my favorite band is the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
JON: I would be in music in one way, shape, or form. I started out at WMU’s school of vocal music with a vocal scholarship. I was really into performing for a while. Time doesn’t allow me to do that anymore.
WHAT IS ONE APP THAT YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT?
JIM: Honestly, Facebook. It’s miraculous to be able to connect with family and friends that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to on a regular basis.
JON: There are about three to four apps that I use daily. My calendar app is number one. My wife and I keep our calendars shared—that helps to make sure that family is our top priority. Noteshelf is my other go-to app. It’s a digital notebook for each project and each group that I’m a part of so I can keep tasks in running order and take notes from meetings.
WHAT DOES YOUR IDEAL LABOR DAY WEEKEND LOOK LIKE?
JIM: Camping is a real joy with family and friends. If we can get away for a long weekend somewhere near Lake Michigan, that would be ideal.
JON: We usually spend Labor Day at home and go boating on Gull Lake. For vacation, our favorite spot would be the Sleeping Bear Dunes to do some camping along the Leelanau Peninsula.
WHEN YOU WERE A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BECOME WHEN YOU GREW UP?
JIM: I wanted to be a meteorologist. I had a fascination with weather. I still do, but I figured I could love weather without it being my profession.
JON: As a very young child, I wanted to be a bus driver. That quickly morphed into wanting to be an architect because I loved to draw houses. That stayed with me throughout most of the elementary school and high school years. I suppose I am not too far off from that dream today, working for an architectural company.