Over 13 years ago, friends gave me a print with this quote as a going-away gift as I was transitioning from COO of Crystal Stairs to CEO of HOBY. The print has hung in my HOBY office since, constantly reminding me of the work we do: inspiring young leaders to believe in themselves and act upon their leadership potential to make a positive difference in the world. Truly life-changing, important work.
Since March of 2007, when I began my tenure as CEO, more than 110,000 young leaders have come through a HOBY program, with nearly 10,000 volunteers creating a life-changing experience for each one of them. Those young leaders have grown and matured; my first class of 2007 Ambassadors are now 28 years old, (which is a crazy realization), and are inspiring another generation through their leadership and service.
I have loved working at HOBY; especially the honor of working with countless selfless volunteers and staff, people who have literally dedicated their hearts and souls to HOBY and our Ambassadors. From Board members to junior staffers, the passion volunteers have is boundless and inspiring. As Hugh often said, “Volunteers are the lifeblood of HOBY. They are more valuable than gold.” And he was, of course, so right.
HOBY staff, past and present, are equally selfless and inspiring, routinely working deep into the night and weekends to support volunteers, Ambassadors, and the organization. They, too, have been gold. A more selfless group of people, I have never met.
But, as you may have already surmised, the time has come for me to move on and turn the leadership reins over to a new leader. Effective July 31, 2020, at the conclusion of our first virtual World Leadership Congress (WLC), I will no longer be CEO of HOBY.
I love HOBY and will always be committed to its success. This is a transition I’ve been considering for some time. In partnership with the Board of Trustees, we selected July 31 as a logical end date as it is the end of the fiscal and program year, thus allowing the organization to enter a new year with new leadership.
2020 has been a particularly difficult time around the world. And yet, in the face of uncertainty, fear and challenge, HOBY successfully pivoted. Working together, we have positioned HOBY for growth and success. As of this writing, nearly 5,000 students across the country have attended Virtual Leadership Seminars through our new HOBY Connect platform and another 2,000 have deferred into next year. WLC registration is growing and looks to be truly international, even in a virtual environment. This online learning platform creates many other opportunities. For example, HOBY’s Training Institute (TI) will be virtual this year, allowing many more volunteers to participate. HOBY’s reach, our breadth, and scope are all greatly enhanced.
There is more to be done, for sure. The pursuit of excellence is a never ending one. With the help of the Corporate Board President’s Council, the staff and Board are reviewing the HOBY business model. A group of volunteers have come together to lead HOBY through efforts to improve our diversity and inclusion. Additionally, the Board and staff will continue to review our IT infrastructure and other operational assets.
HOBY is in great hands. Kristen Hoefer, HOBY alumna, HOBY mom to two alumni and Board member, will serve as volunteer, interim CEO while HOBY conducts a national search for the next full-time CEO. Cheryl Brenn and Rose Santini, both of whom have been a part of HOBY in a volunteer and staff capacity for over 20 years, will continue in their leadership roles. The rest of the outstanding HOBY staff will be here as well. I will serve in a limited capacity as advisor to the interim CEO and the Board of Trustees during the transition. And of course, HOBY will still have each of you, our irreplaceable, Outstanding volunteers.
My heart will always be with HOBY. I have been personally touched and inspired by so many staff, volunteers, and alumni. Your impact on me is indescribable. HOBY changed my life. HOBY changed the lives of my kids and family. I leave HOBY with a heart full of love and memories, lifelong friendships, and experiences that have shaped me into the man and leader I am today.
I am confident of HOBY’s future and proud of the work we’ve done together; any successes attributed to me are shared successes with far too many people to list by name. Together, we have reached up our hands and taken in over 100,000 stars, a constellation of leadership and service, a legacy anyone could be proud of.
Thank you for 13 years of amazing adventures. I look forward to staying in touch.
Javier La Fianza
Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership
HUGH O’BRIAN YOUTH (HOBY) LEADERSHIP BEGINS
SEARCH FOR NEW EXECUTIVE
The HOBY Family Extends its Thanks to Javier La Fianza for Over 13 Years of Transformative Growth
Today the Board of Directors of Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership, a global youth nonprofit, announces a search for a new executive to lead HOBY into its next chapter. The announcement comes with incredible gratitude and respect for the efforts of current CEO Javier La Fianza, who is stepping down effective July 31 after 13 years of dedicated service.
During his tenure, La Fianza led many key initiatives for HOBY, including the expansion of its programming to include youth from across the United States and dozens of countries around the world, cultivation of an alumni network that is nearly 600,000 ambassadors strong, introduction of a formal leadership curriculum, adoption of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, millions of dollars raised in support of HOBY’s mission, stabilization of HOBY’s business model, and – most recently – the launch of a fully-digital platform, HOBY Connect, when the pandemic made HOBY’s signature in-person youth leadership seminars across the country impossible this year.
“On behalf of the full Board, we are proud of the work Javier has done for HOBY and his passion for helping train youth leaders,” said Board Chair Adam Rimes. “Javier’s leadership took HOBY to new heights on many fronts, including paving the way for the launch of HOBY Connect this summer. He has positioned HOBY for the next generation of leadership and we greatly appreciate his hard work.”
La Fianza will step down following the conclusion of HOBY’s first-ever fully digital World Leadership Congress, which will help students around the world reach their leadership potential.
“HOBY has always been about cultivating the next generation of leadership,” La Fianza said. “While it is never easy to step away from a program that I love so much, I am so proud of the work that we have done to help empower thousands of youth leaders around the world while setting HOBY solidly on course for a new direction with HOBY Connect. HOBY will always be part of my life, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with so many incredible youth, volunteers, and staff. I look forward to launching HOBY’s inaugural, fully digital World Leadership Congress in July and helping ensure HOBY is best positioned for years of future success through a smooth transition.”
Effective August 1, HOBY Board Member Kristen Hoefer will step in as volunteer, interim CEO while a national search is conducted. In addition to her background as an accomplished CEO, Hoefer is a HOBY alumna (HOBY Rhode Island & World Leadership Congress, 1986) and both of her children are HOBY alumni and active volunteers. La Fianza and Hoefer are already working together to ensure a smooth transition. Hoefer will work closely with talented HOBY staff, dedicated volunteers, and fellow board members in this interim role.
Virginia O’Brian, wife of the late HOBY founder Hugh O’Brian, extended her thanks to La Fianza for his service and dedication to Hugh’s mission. “When my husband, Hugh, founded this organization in 1958, he was steadfast in his belief of the power of young people,” O’Brian said. “As I look at both the challenges and opportunities of the current moment, I believe HOBY is more important than ever. I thank Javier for his service and look forward to supporting the next chapter of HOBY’s development.”
A search committee has been established, under the direction of HOBY Board Member Shawn Mobley. This committee will engage the services of a national search firm to ensure a truly diverse pool of candidates for HOBY’s next chapter. Details on the process will be shared in the near future and HOBY needs your help to find the best possible candidates. Candidates are encouraged to submit a statement of interest via email to email@example.com.