Organization aims to prepare leaders for 21st century

Study of Kauffman
yields insights into skills

March 15, 1992, The Kansas City Star

Staff Writer

Kelly Patrick Gerling has been an educator for 22 of his 38 years.

He taught swimming and diving to children at the Roeland Park pool when he was a 16 year old high school student. He taught those same skills again as a student working his way through Arizona State University in Tempe.

Today, Gerling is president of a local organization that seeks to provide the most effective leadership training possible.

Better leadership is needed as the world moves into the 21st century, Gerling said. Leaders must bring about a culture of caring and continuous improvement, a quality culture to which highly skilled individuals want to belong.

That takes great leadership skill and knowledge, Gerling said. And he thinks his organization, the Leadership Project, can help bring that about.

"Our desire is to help transfer thinking and relationship skills from master leaders to others interested in learning them," Gerling said.

The Leadership Project, which works with 10 associates in different specialties, strives to do that by applying discoveries in the sciences to leadership education and organizational transformation.

"The inner patterns of thinking are learnable," Gerling said. "Leaders can find the same abilities within themselves that other great leaders have found."

Gerling and business partner Charlie Sheppard work with individuals in corporations to help them acquire and enhance fundamental skills such as thinking, communicating and negotiating. Gerling and Sheppard also work one-on-one with executives.

The Leadership Project recently teamed with the Rockhurst College school of management in a joint venture for studying leadership and educating leaders.

The first project of the joint venture is a two-week executive program from April 26 to May 9 at the Lodge of the four Seasons at the Lake of the Ozarks.

"Kelly is a person who has a vision of what a leader can be in the next century and how leaders can integrate the internal spirit and external energy of a company," said the Rev. Thomas Savage, president of Rockhurst College.

Gerling has interviewed many business leaders, including Ewing Kauffman, founder of Marion Laboratories Inc., now Marion Merrell Dow Inc., and Thomas J. Watson, the former chairman of IBM, to gain an insight into their leadership capabilities.

Gerling, who is doing a study of Kauffman, said Kauffman is a personal hero and an example of an effective leader.

Leaders like Kauffman recognize that walls within organizations must be knocked down, hierarchies flattened and standards raised, Gerling said.

Gerling founded the Leadership Project about two years ago after 12 years of practicing psychotherapy and family counseling.

Before that, he spent 2 1/2 years at the University of Kansas and attended Johnson County Community College where he graduated in 1974 with a liberal arts degree. He studied environmental resources and agriculture at Arizona State, where he graduated in 1976. He received a master's in human relations and counseling from Governors State University in Park Forest South near Chicago, where he graduated in 1978.

In 1979, Gerling returned to Kansas City where he started his psychotherapy and family counseling practice and worked with businesses as a management consultant.

Gerling said he decided to start the Leadership Project after rethinking what he wanted to do with his life.

"I wanted to put all I learned into a research and educational effort to study leadership approaches into the 21st century," he said.

Reprinted by permission, © 1992 The Kansas City Star Co., all rights reserved. This article is reprinted for informational purposes only and is not intended as an endorsement, implied or otherwise, by The Kansas City Star Co. or its employees of any product, service, position or person.

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