Developing Strong Leadership & Diversity in the Leaders of Tomorrow


Travis Nipper, director of marketing and business development at Leadership Excelleration, Inc. (LEI), recently sat down with Lelia Kramer, president of Saint Ursula Academy; Phillip Lanham, vice president of donor & private foundation services for Greater Cincinnati Foundation; and Kurt Platte, owner of Platte Architecture + Design to discuss leadership development, diversity and inclusion, and company culture.


TRAVIS NIPPER: Lelia, thank you for being with us today. What would you say makes your culture unique from both a student perspective and from an educator and education leader perspective?

LELIA KRAMER: I think the culture of any organization, and particularly an educational institution, is incredibly important. Because you have many different types of people that are making Saint Ursula work – you’ve got the faculty, you have the support staff – and it’s critically important that all of us understand the institutional culture of Saint Ursula, to be able to understand how important their jobs are. We are proud of being an all-female school. That’s cultural to us. That culture breeds confidence and boldness in women, and that’s what we want for our girls when they leave.


TRAVIS NIPPER: What unique challenges do you see for Saint Ursula, and how does your strategy process differentiate you?

LELIA KRAMER: I think long-term strategic planning is incredibly important for any institution or organization. For me, we are just starting our second long-range strategic plan since I’ve been the president of Saint Ursula. The reason I think it’s so important and our institution feels it’s so important is because it serves as a roadmap for five years or 10 years. Having that roadmap keeps us ‘on the straight and narrow,’ so to speak, so that when we have different things coming up, we can intentionally decide, “Does this fit into the strategy, or does it not?”


TRAVIS NIPPER: Hello, Phillip. Glad to be here with you today. Since 1963, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) has been the hub of all things charitable in the Greater Cincinnati Region. To be the best at helping people make the most of their giving, how have you seen you and the leadership team change in the last three years?

PHILLIP LANHAM: The leadership has changed at GCF in a way that has allowed to us to “hit the restart button” and create a high-performing culture working with outside experts to build the culture we want to have. We’ve also been given the opportunity to realign our board, our volunteers and our staff to be the organization that we want to be from a core values perspective all the way down to the way we operate.


TRAVIS NIPPER: It sounds like GCF has seen very positive changes in leadership. For you and the leadership team, what importance did you see cultural transformation playing and how did you act on that?

PHILLIP LANHAM: We utilize the Denison Model to assess our culture with the aim of creating a high-performing culture. The results, at first pass, weren’t great. The results were split into four quadrants. The strongest quadrant was Mission Alignment. The quadrants that needed a bit more attention were Consistency, Empowerment, and Adaptability. We worked very deliberately on building a stronger culture through a prescribed curriculum. Two and a half years later when we reassessed, we saw tremendous growth in all four quadrants.


TRAVIS NIPPER: Kurt, thanks for joining me. In what ways would you say leadership is different from other businesses and industries in an architecture and design firm?

KURT PLATTE: I’ve worked in a couple of other fields. We’ve also worked with a lot of different companies, and when we design for people, we get to see who they really are and how they interact. The difference with a design firm – at least with the firm that we have created – is that it’s very creative. Having a foolproof system that allows us to lead people and manage people is really difficult, because every personality is different. I need to meet people and their personality where they’re at, because I hired them for their personality and uniqueness of who they are. So, how do you do that and have systems in place? So, we’re right in the tension of that.


TRAVIS NIPPER: How do you see diversity and inclusion as part of your business going forward, or how have you seen it become more important, specifically in your industry?

KURT PLATTE: This current American culture that we find ourselves in – the environment politically, culturally and socially – yes, diversity is showing up. Not so much in that people are demanding that we have more inclusion – we do a good job of that. We’re fairly diverse. With 24 people, we’re 50/50 male and female employees. We’re designing environments. I’m a middle-aged white man, and the way I see something – my story, my history – tells me a certain story. One of our marketing people grew up in Asia, and the conversations we have are just fantastic. She spent time in India, and that’s a whole different culture. The makeup of our design team has a huge impact on how we handle almost any issue. It improves the end product and the connectedness of our group – embracing our differences. 


Saint Ursula Academy is located at 1339 E. McMillan St., Cincinnati, OH 45206. For more information, call 513.961.3410 or visit

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation is located at 200 W. 4th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. For more information, call 513.241.2880 or visit

Platte Architecture + Design is located at 202 W. Elder St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. For more information, call 513.871.1850 or visit

LEI is located at 5905 E Galbraith Road, Suite 1600, Cincinnati, OH 45236. For more information, call 513.677.0995 or visit