Leadership

Ask the CEO: Deanna Tharpe

By / Jun 1, 2018
I want to make ongoing training for staff and board easy and accessible, available at their convenience, and an important reason they find value in being a member.

Deanna Tharpe, executive director, Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action, answers questions from DSAIA member Kari Jones, president and CEO, Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio.

You work with so many Down syndrome association leaders throughout the country. What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

I’d love to say intelligence or even flexibility, but honestly, you have to be a diplomat. If you can’t find ways to work with everyone (board members, staff, donors, community) that allow them to come out feeling good about the interaction, it won’t matter how well you develop programming or increase funding. To be a leader, you have to inspire people to follow.

What is the most important thing you are working on now?

I think the future of our organization lies in online learning, so that is a real focus for me. I want to make ongoing training for staff and board easy and accessible, available at their convenience, and an important reason they find value in being a member of DSAIA. I’m a real tech geek, so maybe I’m enjoying this a bit more than I should. I hope this is also an opportunity to bring in nonmembers through these amazing new courses.

What would your autobiography be called?

Wasn’t I Supposed to Be Living in New York and Working for the Times by Now? I always pictured myself living in a cute apartment, hanging out with friends in a coffee shop or bar, and burying myself in my work. Well, that last part is true—the other two might just be that I watched too many episodes of Friends. I am very happy that I feel as fulfilled with my career as I would be seeing my byline on the front page.

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