Building Authentic, Whole-Life Leaders the ICAN Way
The Institute for Career Advancement Needs (ICAN) has been building authentic, whole-life leaders for more than 35 years. SageRiver sat down with Julie Burrell Lillig, director of strategic partnerships at ICAN, to learn about ICAN’s unique philosophy and approach to supporting leaders at each stage of the development journey.
SageRiver (SR): How did ICAN get started? What need was it intended to fill?
Julie Burrell Lillig (JBL): It started in 1981 with several female friends having a conversation in their backyard. They were all successful, but they weren’t seeing many leadership development programs open to women in those days. They decided to do something about it, and that’s how ICAN began. It was a grassroots effort to create more opportunities for women leaders and advance women in business. Interestingly, because they took a unique approach, men started asking for similar leadership experiences.
SR: For those who aren’t familiar with ICAN programs, how are they unique?
JBL: What underlies all our work is a focus on developing authentic and intentional leaders. We take a holistic approach that engages the heart and mind of a leader. We want leaders to know their values, be comfortable in their own skin and, perhaps, lead in a different way than they have been led because it reflects who they are and their maximized potential. Each program is distinct and innovative, but those core principles flow through all our work.
SR: Today ICAN offers programs for women and men, both separately and together. Why do you sponsor both gender-specific and co-mingled programs?
JBL: When the focus is on the individual leader’s self-learning and development, we’ve found that many leaders are more comfortable in same-gendered peer mentoring groups. They are less self-conscious and less likely to filter their comments, which creates an open and unique relationship-building experience. That openness and honesty are essential for growth. When we focus on team building and organizational development, it’s important to involve both genders.
SR: If I wanted to get a sense of whether ICAN’s approach works for me, where would you recommend I start?
JBL: We offer one of the largest annual leadership conferences for women in the world, and that’s frequently how people first become involved with ICAN. We’re actually celebrating our 25th anniversary conference in 2018!
We also offer Women’s Leadership Circles. These are five-week programs that engage women at different stages of the leadership journey. This program gives leaders time to reflect and share within the circles, which is where much of the learning takes place. It’s a shorter time commitment than our full Defining Leadership program, and it gives participants a good feel for our unique approach.
Lastly, we offer a program targeted for individuals who lead teams called IMPACT – which is tailored to leaders at a mid-senior level who want to grow their influence and strategic impact for their team.
SR: Let’s talk about the Defining Leadership program, since Susan Heinzeroth is co-leading two sessions this fall. What makes Defining Leadership unique?
We call it our flagship program because it’s become so well-known and respected. We offer gender-specific programs for men and women and concentrate on three content themes: Stepping into Your Power, Creating Vision and Achieving Vibrancy. The program builds self-awareness, emotional intelligence, communications skills, whole-brain thinking and leadership agility for participants and is designed to be truly transformational.
Although the program achieves a number of learning objectives, our primary purpose is to help participants dig deep to better understand their own values, passions and personal strengths and weaknesses. We believe in helping leaders develop a vision and approach to leadership that is authentic to who they are and what they believe.
We integrate a number of tools and learning experiences to help participants achieve that goal. The program includes peer-to-peer learning, one-on-one coaching, individual assessments, experiential learning, self-reflection and journaling and more.
SR: Right now, ICAN programs are hosted at your headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. Do you plan to offer programs in Colorado at some point?
JBL: We’re exploring that possibility, yes. Our programs and conferences have been very popular with Colorado leaders, and we may offer local programming in your state in the next few years.
SR: Can people register for ICAN programs now?
JBL: Absolutely! You can register online at www.icanglobal.net.