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Leadership Greater Hartford (LGH) announced that Chris Duffy will succeed retiring president Ted Carroll beginning July 1, 2020. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager spoke with Chris about his new role, helping people understand what leadership means, and his plans to bring community together through inclusivity.

NAN PRICE: Congratulations! Let’s start by talking about how you became involved with LGH and what makes you a good fit for this role.

CHRIS DUFFY: Thanks! A little background: When I moved to Connecticut from the South Jersey area 12 years ago, the first two organizations I became involved with were Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs (HYPE) and LGH’s Quest program.

LGH means a lot to me because it’s helped me become rooted and learn more about the area. In terms of LGH’s core competencies, leadership and community are the pillars I believe are most important. I’ve been blessed to have many experiences—good, bad, and otherwise—with both of those pillars.

I started my leadership journey almost 20 years ago at General Electric and went through their leadership program. As a community leader, I coached for the Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps program last year, I’ve been an EMT firefighter for 19 years, and I’ve served on various nonprofit boards.

During the comprehensive search process, when I was asked why I wanted to do this role, one of the reasons was a sense of duty. I felt a call to action to lean into being more of a community leader. I also wanted to give back because LGH really helped me in a lot of ways through its programs and its leaders including Ted Carroll and many others.

This position nicely integrates my background in leadership and community. Conveniently, those are areas where I have a lot of depth and areas where I want to learn more and go deeper.

NAN: Let’s break those pillars down. What does leadership mean to you?

CHRIS: There’s a difference between being a leader and being a manager. Managers are operationally in charge of ensuring things get done by executing and strategic vision. The best leaders do that, plus helping someone recognize their strengths and encouraging their growth.

I think leadership also answers the question: What do we want to leave here when we’re no longer on this earth? For me, it’s not material things or accolades, it’s helping people learn what they’re really good at and focusing on sustainability—what they are going to do for others.

NAN: You noted community was another LGH pillar. How do you plan to bring community together in alignment with your mission?

CHRIS: I’ve learned there’s power in bringing people together. I’ve also learned when you bring people together, you must make it psychologically safe for those people to have different opinions.

It’s important for us as an organization—and those of us who lead the region—to invite people who have varied experiences to the table. We shouldn’t be designing solutions for folks without those people in the room. So, that’s community to me: Bringing people together and making it okay for them to share things that might be hard to hear.

NAN: When you and I spoke about you founding Amplify Leadership Partners, you noted your mission is “to help others realize their own great potential.”  How does being LGH President and CEO align with your mission?

CHRIS: Yes, that’s my personal mission. And I think LGH very much does that—it’s just more well known in the community. Transitioning from being a one-person LLC (which I had plans to grow, of course) where I had to do it all, including building a brand, to leading an organization that’s been around for 43 years and has a supportive team of staff, board members, and alumni gives me a greater platform for my mission.

NAN: What do you hope to accomplish in your new role?

CHRIS: Overall, I want to help people become more comfortable with leadership. We have to do a better job of helping people truly understand leadership—and what it means to be a good leader. We also have to meet people where they are.

I think a lot of people question how to know whether they’re good leaders and how to reach out for help. It doesn’t need to be remedial, it’s developmental. It comes from a positive place.

Over time, I hope to address some of the larger issues in our region, which I view as systemic inequalities. We’re one of the wealthiest states in the nation and we also have the largest gaps in terms of education, poverty, and employment. I don’t see how those issues can be tackled without good leadership. So, I think we’re going to have to lean into those topics and collectively come together to ask: How can we define not a new normal, but a new tomorrow—a stronger tomorrow—that’s more collective?

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Chris Duffy speaks to a Leadership Greater Hartford Quest 2020 participants.
Chris Duffy will assume the role of Leadership Greater Hartford President and CEO on July 1, 2020.
Hartford’s Community Leadership Corps program closes out 2019 with the final capstone meeting. ​Chris Duffy pictured bottom row, fourth from left. (Photo credit: The Obama Foundation)