With Much Gratitude to Steve Betts

For the past five years, Steve Betts has been Lumity’s transformational board chair while also serving as a Chicago industry and community leader. Steve is a visionary. He led Lumity’s pivot to focus on developing and inspiring Chicago’s next-gen STEM leaders, pushed our team to get clearer about our programmatic offerings, and developed our board to include all of the wonderful, dedicated members we have today.

As with everything he does, Steve’s impact on Lumity and Chicago young adults is beyond measure (although ever focused on accountability, he would tell us to measure it!).

We are excited to share that Steve will continue as a Lumity board member. With much gratitude for his dedication to Lumity, we would also like to share that as he starts the next chapter in his career as the EVP and Head of Health Care Benefits Solutions at Fidelity Investments, he will be handing the Lumity board chair reins to Accenture Managing Director and long-time Lumity board member Chris Johnston this fall. 

In our recent conversation with Steve, he reflected on his strategy for leading Lumity’s board. What follows are Steve’s insights in his own words. We believe they provide lessons on leadership for all of us.

When I was offered board chair, I was a reluctant successor at first, but then got quickly serious about what we needed to do to make Lumity successful. We decided to focus on STEM, and rethought our mission and what the board needed to do around this focus. We knew we needed to get the right level of board engagement and commitment in terms of time, energy, and resources.

We also had a lot to learn. I think in the beginning we had two challenges: we were doing high-impact work with just a few students and had a tendency to chase too many things. Both are difficult to scale. We then brought a more structured strategic planning approach that helped us get clear on what we are and what we are not. We made a conscious decision to keep some initiatives and end others. This strategy work was a huge step in our journey.

I also had to get comfortable with fundraising and bringing people along. Once Lumity started showcasing our impact with students, it felt natural and rewarding all around. I quickly realized that we were simply showcasing opportunities for companies and individuals to support Chicago’s young adults by providing them with STEM education and career opportunities. This resonated with me.  I grew up in public housing in England, and education unlocked a new world of opportunity for me. 

I think the biggest measure of success is positioning an organization to run effectively without you. I’m a believer in building something sustainable that can continue to grow and be more successful. I’m thrilled that the Lumity board is more engaged, more accountable, and more responsible. We established new board committees on programs, fundraising, and governance, and also set up an Associate Board whose members have brought new energy. Kara [Lumity Executive Director] has built a team and structure that matches the work we have done at the board level. 

And, of course, it’s all about the relationships we build along the way. The Lumity board and team are now friends and colleagues. I believe Chris Johnson is the perfect successor to lead Lumity’s board. I look forward to supporting his efforts and continuing my commitment to the Lumity team.