Workforce.com

2011 Game Changer: Kelly Lewis

Founder and managing partner, Bounce Collective, Richmond, Virginia

September 29, 2011

Leadership is a way of life, not just an adaptable skill. And from Kelly Lewis' point of view, the seeds of leadership are in every man, woman and child, and are just waiting to be nurtured by something like the Bounce Collective.

Lewis, 39, started the Bounce Collective, a human development organization for empowering leaders in 2008, after a 15-year corporate career. She also became certified as a leadership coach at Georgetown University, where she now serves on the faculty in the Leadership Coaching program.

"When I started doing leadership coaching, what I recognized was that the principles of leadership are life principles," Lewis says. "And I wondered why I didn't learn them in school."

Now Lewis works with schoolchildren, either in their own leadership learning groups or as part of what she calls "Leaders as Learners," which brings adult clients into a sixth-grade classroom once a week for six months for a new approach to learning.

Lewis says she based her method on the work of David Rock, who has collaborated with neuroscientists to develop "brain-based" leadership coaching. It contains the ingredients that Rock says can lead to behavior change: an emotional connection, a structured environment that's conducive to insight and personal discovery, and spaced repetition of new concepts over time. She says the method opens participants up to new perspectives about themselves, their relationships and their role in the world.

"We haven't found anything quite like this," Lewis says. "Lots of corporations have mentoring programs with leaders paired up with a nonprofit or a school. That model is typically a one-way exchange, as opposed to what we call community learning."

Whitney Forstner, who nominated Lewis for the Game Changers award, was so enthusiastic about the Leaders as Learners program that she signed up for it herself.

"From a business perspective it has expanded my network," says Forstner, whose staffing business shares the same building as the Bounce Collective. "And it has an introspective piece of really trying to identify who I am as a leader, how I learn and how that can be translated to my business and to the clients that I interact with."