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Candidate Corner with Justin Ennis

Read Time
4 minutes
Spring 2024
Lincoln Leadership

Candidate Corner with Justin Ennis

This month's Corner features Justin Ennis, Executive Director of Philadelphia Outward Bound School.

A man wearing an Outward Bound t-shirt smiling at the camera

In your new role, what was your major impact the first year?
My primary focus in my first 6 months has been to develop a foundation of trust and reciprocity with my new colleagues. We have incredible leaders at all levels of the organization and my arrival has created both the need and opportunity to engage their expertise and insights, perhaps in some unprecedented ways, to help plot our course forward. So while they’ve been doing a lot of hand-holding as I find my way, I’ve been keen to elevate their ideas, hopes and wishes for the future with our stakeholders and supporters.

Where do you get advice? Who do you listen to?
I have been extremely fortunate to have had a number of close mentors who modeled for me what it means to be an effective and compassionate leader. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they’ve all been women who have led (or lead) education or youth-focused organizations who demonstrated an admirably high-tolerance for me in my younger years. While their personalities and leadership styles vary widely, they have all been incredibly generous and candid in sharing with me the lessons they learned through the years, many of which came with considerable professional and personal risk or cost. So whenever I’m faced with a challenging scenario, I know I can lean on them to give me the perspective(s) I need.  

What do you do outside of work that gives you joy?
I play guitar in what my hipper friends slander as a “Dad rock band” -- and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Everybody should be so lucky as to have a few hours a week where all your worries and to-dos fade into the background and your sole focus is to make the loudest racket possible with your buds…

My two children are also a constant source of joy (and, of course, exhaustion). Recently I’ve really enjoyed introducing them to the incredible natural resources in our region, largely inspired by my transition to my new job. One honorable mention: My 2-year old daughter has been watching the “Frozen” movies about twice a day for the last 6 months, so taking her sledding during her first-ever snowfall and watching her lose her absolute mind is pretty hard to beat.

If you could have a meal with one person, who would it be and why?
With respect to David Bowie, I’ll stick to the world of the living. If I’m being true to my innermost fanboy I’d have to go with Martin Scorsese. Across my various personal and professional endeavors, a joy and passion for story-telling has been a constant. And for my money, no American artist brims with more excitement for the craft of story-telling or possesses more insight into the complex American narrative than Marty, even at the spry age of 81. Whether he’s talking about the art or history of filmmaking, or music – whatever it may be – there’s an urgency and verve I’ve always found to be bracing and inspiring. The meal would need a lot of courses.

What have you found most helpful while working with search firms?
Speaking for myself, I have written a ton of job descriptions which I would give high marks for accuracy but which have probably failed to excite the reader. I’ve also encountered a ton of job descriptions that feel so recycled, broad and prosaic as to be pointless. The same is likely true with most resumes. As someone hoping to commit to a new organization, a search firm gives you a much better chance of ascertaining the pulse and character of the organization. Likewise, a good search firm can help amplify the relevant skills, experiences, or even temperament that makes you the right candidate at the right moment. As a result, the search and hiring process becomes a lot more three-dimensional for both sides.