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Meet Dave: Executive Director of CHNW

Meet Dave, Executive Director of CHNW

Throughout the Spotlight Series, we highlight residents and staff to learn about their experiences at College Housing Northwest (CHNW). As Dave is celebrating a 7-year workiversary, we took some time to ask about his experience as the Executive Director of CHNW.

Dave has been an organizational leader for more than 20 years, bringing to CHNW his penchant for shepherding diverse groups to achieve successful outcomes.  The Board of Directors hired Dave in August 2010 to lead CHNW through a transitional period in the organization and help identify a renewed direction.

Prior to joining, David was CEO of iComprehend and COO for Galois, both computer science companies operating in Portland.  He helped to grow Galois from a start-up to an $8M, 40-person organization that works with NSA, the Navy, and the Air Force.

Q: What qualities do you think are required to be a successful leader?

A: I think that leadership is still misunderstood by most people.  We often mistake leadership for a title or a position of authority, but leadership is fundamentally about “followership”; when a person “leads” people, there is an implied “follow” there. To motivate people to follow you on some adventure, in some business, on a campaign, or even to an out-of-the-way hiking trail, the “leader” first needs to have a vision of where to go and why. Second, the leader must take into consideration their followers’ needs, concerns, and worries; what do others need to be sufficiently engaged to go on this journey?

At College Housing Northwest, our vision is to nurture college student communities which people feel great to be a part of and to try to reduce the financial burden for those college students.  It is my job to make sure we keep the vision at the forefront all the time and that we create the kind of workplace together that engages staff to fully participate in delivering our mission.

Q: What is your biggest strength as an executive director?

A: Possibly my biggest strength may be combining my listening skills with systems thinking ability.  My experience is that, if I listen to what’s important to people, what they care about, and what is immediate for them, I can help them design a way forward that meets their needs and is systemically sustainable for the business.

Q: What is your biggest weakness as an executive director? 

A: My biggest weakness may be that my desire for harmony sometimes supersedes my willingness to be direct or enter a confrontation. My psyche believes that if we could all listen to each other, truly hear each other, that we could solve any problem productively together. But that can be a little too idealistic.

Q: What are the three most important lessons you’ve learned as an executive director? 

A: 1.  It’s critical for the executive director to hold and continually narrate a vision of the future of the organization to all our stakeholders; staff, residents, board members, consutlants, etc., while keeping in mind that our vision is something that we’re always moving toward, but, like the horizon, we’ll never reach.

A2: We, as humans, while desiring to be happy and engaged, have a perpetual ability to fall into unproductive moods, which, at least for a time, makes working together difficult. Working with staff and other stakeholders (and myself!) to guide us from unproductive spaces to more productive conversations is critical for the success and well-being of the organization.

A3: A good board of directors is worth its weight in gold qualities such as competence, intelligence, and experience are critical, but even more critical are people who are gracious, thoughtful, and considerate in their brilliance.  CHNW’s boards of directors are fantastic; knowledgeable, engaged, and, gracious.

Q: What is your vision for CHNW in the next five years? 

A: In the next five years, I hope to see us successfully operating three new buildings which we have developed, have our property operations as good as anyone’s in multi-family housing, and be reported by our residents as a phenomenal place to live while going to college.

Check out more interviews with Dave here.

About CHNW
College Housing Northwest is a nonprofit organization founded in 1969 by students to support students in the areas of housing, academic success, and personal development.

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