Leadership Columbus names new executive director

Jess Deyo
Shannon Lee is the new executive director for Leadership Columbus.

Leadership Columbus has appointed Shannon Lee executive director. In her new role, Lee will maintain and expand the organization’s leadership programs. She starts March 8.

Lee steps into her new role with 25 years of experience working in nonprofits, education and sales leadership. A graduate of Ohio State University, she holds a degree in education and started her career as a teacher and principal at Harvest Preparatory School.

Most recently, Lee served as the executive director and leadership development expert at Rela Leadership, where she led the creation of leadership programs: NxGen and ExecGen. The programs were created to foster innovative thinking and a servant leadership mindset. 

Interim executive director Robbie Banks, who managed the organization through the pandemic and the sudden shift to virtual, will become associate director for Leadership Columbus. Banks is a member of the Columbus CEO Future 50.

“The Board of Trustees is confident Shannon and Robbie will take this opportunity to build off of the strong foundation of this organization and keep the robust momentum going,” said board Chair Laurie Aquilina in a release. “The collaboration between these outstanding leaders will keep us on mission to develop our community’s trustees and take Leadership Columbus to new heights.”

Taking Leadership Columbus into its next iteration is a personal and professional challenge Lee said she’s excited to take on.

“What made me want to apply was to be able to have a platform that is as established and well-known as Leadership Columbus,” Lee says. “To help them reimagine — and the way they put it in the application that really resonated with me was — write the next chapter.”

The organization’s successful Signature Program will definitely continue, she said. It was established to help individuals learn relationship building and problem solving, and it helps them become leaders in the Columbus community.

A priority for the organization is its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts emphasized by Banks during the past year. The first step is to challenge the staff and the board to ensure everybody is embodying a commitment to learning not only about diversity but anti-racism as well, Lee says.

“I want to make sure that as an organization, we’re embracing that mindset that we’re going to forge forward. We’re going to dismantle any area that we find as we uncover things that might be influenced by systemic racism,” Lee says. “And you do that by inviting various voices into the conversation.”

Lee also hopes to establish new “cradle to grave” leadership programs, she says, which would be a collection of action plans suitable for teens, young professionals, seasoned professionals and beyond.

“The big picture here is how we can create a continuum of leadership experiences where someone could start at one end and, theoretically, and go all the way through their leadership needs as they progress through their career here in central Ohio,” Lee says.

Jess Deyo is associate editor of Columbus CEO.

Robbie Banks, associate director, Leadership Columbus