Henry Givray
As a lifelong student of leadership, I recognized the integral role that leadership plays in ensuring an organization’s enduring success and vitality. But no simple formulas, playbooks or prescriptions exist for how to become a true leader; that’s why you cannot teach leadership. However, you can teach leadership’s timeless principles, and you can offer insights, share experiences and provide tools so others can learn through a process of active engagement and self-discovery. It was these tenets, among others, that influenced and guided my decision to create and launch unique, high-impact leadership learning programs.

Beginning in 2011 with the Leadership Learning Forum, an internal opportunity for SmithBucklin top-performing employees at various levels within the company, the programming has evolved to include two offerings. The SmithBucklin Leadership Institute is for board members of client associations, and Leadership’s Calling® ( is available to both SmithBucklin employees and to the business and professional communities at large.

My programs are all based on the same design, content and format. They expose a small group of students to leadership concepts, principles and guidelines based on a leadership framework that I developed. The unique instructional design relies heavily on active facilitation, homework assignments, invited guests, lecturettes, in-session exercises, and the reading and discussion of core books in order to provoke, stimulate, provide context, and illuminate ideas. The programs intentionally create an environment for reflection, self-discovery and growth via dialogue, sharing, doing, deliberation, debate and problem solving.

Below is the background story of the SmithBucklin Leadership Learning Forum, the SmithBucklin Leadership Institute and Leadership’s Calling® which officially launched in 2011, 2013 and 2017, respectively.

SmithBucklin Leadership Learning Forum

An essential part of my job as a CEO was to enable the achievement of desired annual results. At SmithBucklin that includes client satisfaction and retention, employee engagement and retention, new client acquisition and company performance, among others. But as a CEO who also aspired to be a true leader, my overarching goal was to build a great, enduring company. One of the foundational requirements in the journey toward greatness is to build leadership capacity and performance throughout the company – in other words, grow leaders from within.

For several years I thought about how best to grow leaders at many levels within SmithBucklin in a way that would be purposeful, organized, disciplined, impactful and sustainable. In early 2010, my ideas and thoughts around content, desired outcomes, student selection and other key aspects were sufficiently developed to seriously begin planning. My plan was to build the program’s curriculum and content based on the leadership framework that I had developed over the years. I sought and received valuable assistance with the program’s unique instructional design from independent consultant Dick Dooley, someone I’ve known for more than 25 years. In February 2011, the Leadership Learning Forum held the first session for its inaugural class.

For each class, the company’s senior management team would identify 18 employees with varying job functions and seniority to apply for the program. To be considered, an individual must consistently perform her or his job at an exceptionally high level, demonstrate great potential for increased responsibility and impact, show considerable capacity to grow and succeed at SmithBucklin, have a strong desire for a career in executive management – either at the SmithBucklin corporate level or in service to client organizations – and embody SmithBucklin’s values. To be accepted into the program, candidates also must assert and demonstrate a deep commitment for personal learning and growth, as well as a willingness to sacrifice personal time to meet the program’s demands.

SmithBucklin Leadership Institute

Recognizing that leadership capacity and performance within an association volunteer board of directors is essential to ensuring the organization remains vital, value-creating and sustainable, I created the SmithBucklin Leadership Institute. With the overwhelming success of the Leadership Learning Forum, I was confident that the boards of SmithBucklin’s client associations would welcome a similar program. Offering such a program would also help the company further demonstrate its client stewardship pledge. In March 2013, the Leadership Institute officially welcomed its first class.

Every fall, SmithBucklin conducts open enrollment for up to 18 volunteer board members with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. They include business executives, physicians, small business owners, farmers, medical researchers, nurses, technology specialists and managers, researchers, legal marketers, genetic counselors, and other various titles and professional roles. This diversity adds a powerful learning element to the student experience.

Leadership’s Calling®

I retired as SmithBucklin President & CEO at the end of 2015 though I continue to serve as chairman (non-executive) of the company’s board of directors. In 2017, I launched Leadership’s Calling® for audiences outside of SmithBucklin which is based on the same design, content and format as the SmithBucklin programs but available to the business and professional communities at large. Beginning in 2018, Leadership’s Calling® also became available to a select few top-performing SmithBucklin employees.

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