Thirty years of experience across the world will help a now-retired IBM executive teach Franklin College students and local officials about leadership.
Dale Rebhorn, 54, has been hired as the new curriculum director for Leadership Johnson County. Rebhorn most recently was a director and vice president for IBM in New York, focusing on the areas of technical sales and services, and had previously worked in Japan and the Czech Republic.
His decades of experience have taught him that leadership skills are needed by companies throughout the world, he said.
“I’ve spent about 25 years working as a people manager, working to develop other people,” he said. “The main development need I focused on was not so much on technical skills as much as management and leadership skills. Those are the skills that are in short supply everywhere. Good organizations are always looking to develop more leaders with more leadership skills.”
Now, Rebhorn will be director of leadership at Franklin College. The college offers a minor in leadership, and along with running the school’s program, Rebhorn will teach courses, including one this fall.
He also will have a role in planning the educational content of Leadership Johnson County. That organization partners with Franklin College and is aimed at promoting leadership in the community and influencing its future. Each year a group of about 35 local business and organization leaders are selected to go through a series of monthly, daylong classes. Participants meet other community leaders and discuss issues of public and professional life.
Rebhorn replaces Bonnie Pribush, who retired in May.
Tandy Shuck, executive director of Leadership Johnson County, cited Rebhorn’s previous work with technology and international business as key factors in his selection for the job. One area for Rebhorn to focus on will be examining the curriculum to see how it meshes with the needs and desires of the organization’s students, she said.
“Our curriculum is already strong, but we are ready to incorporate some ideas that he brings because of his great experience,” Shuck said. “Leaders need to be flexible. We believe we are and we’re ready to benefit from Dale’s experience and ideas.”
After looking at applications from the incoming Leadership Johnson County class members, Rebhorn has identified two areas he wants to focus on: communication skills and how to best use new technology.
“In order to be a leader you have to be able to influence. To do that you have be able to organize your thoughts well and present them,” he said.
He also has noticed interest in information technology, and specifically social media. In his career at IBM, Rebhorn’s specialties included distributed computing, client-server, e-business, Internet and IBM software.
“People want to know just how do you use all this mobile technology. Everybody’s thinking about that,” he said.
The opportunity to take the new position comes at the right time in Rebhorn’s life, he said.
“I’ve been working with adults, and now I get to combine that with working with students who are mostly pretty new to the discussion of leadership,” he said.
His definition of leadership is the ability to help people help you accomplish mutually-set goals. Working out the details of that is a lifelong effort, he said.
“There are entire books written just on defining the term. But it’s safe to say you can’t be a leader by yourself. You have to be involved with other people and ultimately you and they have to be on the same page.”
He also believes everyone plays a role in leadership.
“A lot of people may not be a manager or have some formal title, but they still have a leadership function at work, in their community, their church or somewhere. There’s always a chance to bring new ideas into something,” he said.