Over the course of human history, individuals have been the impetus for immense organizational change. These individuals are what James Gehrke, founder of Magnify Leadership and Development, calls true “leaders.”
With the guidance of Salt Lake Community College and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, Gehrke was able to shape his leadership development project, Magnify Leadership, into a business primed for success.
Magnify aims to serve corporate teams and individuals in expanding their self-awareness, leadership ability, and confidence through team building exercises and lectures, says Gehrke. He refers to this experience as a “pilgrimage,” modeled after his experience traveling Spain’s Camino de Santiago.
“This 500-mile pilgrimage left travelers with time for introspection and reflection,” says Gerhke. He adds that the journey to becoming a strong leader through Magnify, resembles the experience on the Camino de Santiago.
Gehrke, who studied organizational communication at the University of Utah, says his attraction to examining characteristics of strong leadership came from his experience playing basketball in high school.
“I came from a big sports family,” he says. “My brother was a quarterback at the U, and everywhere I went, people would always mention something about my brother to me.”
One summer, Gehrke attended a basketball clinic at South High School, now SLCC’s South Main Campus, with local coaching legend George Souvall, now a member of the Utah Sports Hall of Fame. At the clinic, Souvall made attendees stand up and say something about themselves. With Gehrke’s reputation as the brother of a high-profile, college athlete, he wasn’t sure what response he’d receive from the famed coach.
“When it was my turn, I expected him to talk about my brother, but instead he focused on me,” recalls Gehrke. “[Souvall] wasn’t teaching us basketball. He taught us to be better people and to be young men with goals.”
Gehrke was impressed by Souvall’s guidance and approach and was instrumental in establishing Gerhke’s interest in the study of leadership.
However, the motivation in developing his leadership skills didn’t come until Gehrke began working as a sales manager at Pfizer. It was then that he realized there was more to leadership than what he knew.
“Many of the leaders I worked with had so much potential, but left a lot on the table,” says Gehrke. “They weren’t maximizing their effectiveness as leaders, so I saw the need to improve the way organizations communicate, the way leaders communicate and the way teams communicate.”
“I was in the second cohort to attend the Goldman Sachs [program], and they helped me add some of the hard skills I was missing,” says Gerhke.
Through the Goldman Sachs program and SLCC, small business owners who want to expand can take seminars on bankability, financing and other hard business skills they may lack.
But, for students and leaders, Gehrke has some advice on how to angle oneself for leadership roles.
“It’s not what you accomplish, it’s how you accomplish it,” Gehrke advises. “What you accomplish is a reflection of your values, so leaders must examine their motives, their inspiration and chart a course based on that.”
Gehrke hopes Magnify will impart business leaders with a greater sense of self-awareness and direction.
“My goal is to help leaders become more self-aware, recognize what opportunities for growth are [available] and become more effective themselves,” Gehrke says. “I want leaders to look not just at how they reach organizational goals, but how they lead other individuals.”
As Magnify Leadership works with a number of multi-national corporations, Gerhke sees a consistent theme.
“Effective leaders have tackled self-leadership and self-awareness before anything else,” Gerhke notes, adding that introspection and knowing oneself is paramount to effective leadership.