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7 Questions with Jake J. Jones
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7 Questions with Jake J. Jones
Name: Jake J. Jones
Current title: President & CEO
Current organisation: A.D.E.P.T. Programs Inc.
Jake Jones is the CEO of A.D.E.P.T. Programs, Inc. in Mount Holly, NJ. His experience includes developing community programs that support children, adolescents and adults with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities (I/DD), as well as, those with co-occurring mental health and behavioral challenges. Jake has extensive experience in training direct care professionals in supporting individuals who live in community settings. He earned his Master's degree from Rutgers University. He is also a certified Americans with Disabilities Act Advocate (CADAA); via City University of New York (John Jay College of Criminal Justice). With this certification Jake helps people with invisible disabilities (such as PTSD) navigate the court system (as a non-attorney). Jake is an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities while at the same time a proponent of fair treatment and the development of direct care workers who support individuals with disabilities. His advocacy activities have taken him to Washington DC where he was able to engage with the subcommittees that formulated the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that supported Employment First initiatives. In 2016 Jake was acknowledged by the New Jersey Association of Community Providers (NJACP) with a Leadership Award at that organization’s 33rd annual conference. In addition, he has served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer for abused and neglected children. He serves on several Boards of organizations throughout New Jersey, as well as, Officer of the Veterans Alumni Chapter of Rutgers University. He was featured as "Top CEO" in the January 2021 issue of South Jersey Biz magazine. Jake proudly served in the United States Army for nine years.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
There are many challenges a CEO faces. We manage all the risks of the organization while shouldering the company's strategic navigation. At the same time we have to create a culture that believes in the vision of the company. And we are the drivers of growth.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I've been lucky to have served in leadership roles at several organizations. Seems I began to cultivate a reputation of being a transformational leader and that led to many opportunities. Each experience was unique and presented big challenges that I took on and as a result became a better Executive . I started in the field of Human Services right out of High School working as an Aide in a long Term Care facility; working with Senior Citizens. Then I served in the Military for nine years. After the military I went to college and began my journey working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I started in a management role and then my responsibilities grew from there. I never turned down an opportunity. I believe that is the seminal component that charted my path to eventually become a CEO.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I try to take time for myself in the morning before I start working (when possible). I make sure to exercise and give my mind and body an opportunity to prepare for my day ahead; which can be very demanding. I tend to have long days. I also try to get an appropriate sleep/rest as that is important for good physical health and a sharp mind.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The most poignant lesson is that culture will always trump strategy. It's something you cannot get around. The CEO has to have a team of great people that "buy in'' to the vision. This takes time and there are no shortcuts. You have to build trust with your team by being a person of vision, passion, humility, transparency, and ethics.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
"The Inspirational Leader" by Gifford Thomas is a favorite. It resonates with my belief that you cannot be a good/effective leader if you cannot inspire a group of people to follow your vision. You have to care for the wellbeing of your team. Leadership is about people and you have to by your actions and words inspire people to believe in the possibilities and not focus on the barriers. This creates a sort of freedom to think outside the box within your team and can spark incredible levels of creative, flexible, and collaborative thought. It makes the work environment fun.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
It's important to develop a philosophy surrounding recruitment and retention of the "best and brightest". This means making sure to resource this effort and align positions with the market; as best you can. As well, encouraging and providing opportunities for professional development is key. The CEO should be an example of a vulnerable and constant learner. You don't have to pretend to know everything. But you should use what you don't know as a strength; not be embarrassed. Show an avid interest in learning new information and the culture will become like that.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
The pandemic in 2020 was the biggest challenge for me. I just started as a CEO taking over for a "legacy" predecessor. Then the pandemic hit and the circumstances had huge financial and risk implications that could have brought the company to its knees. All the preparation and cultivation of skill and knowledge just kicked in for me. It seemed everything was instinctual as I was just making the correct decisions without feeling stressed or panicked. It's really neat when you are in what most would see as a real crisis but you're not feeling the pressure; just executing and moving forward. It was surreal. Its like those times when I saw Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, or Tom Brady make those crucial winning plays as the last second of time ticked off the clock. You sit there and marvel at what they did but for them was just business as usual. I felt like that! I was able to convince my team through my actions and conviction to focus on what we could become instead of thinking of loss. We became disruptors and the pandemic became an accelerator of transformation. We came out of that year fiscally stronger and deeper in competent leadership than we had ever been in the organization's (60) plus year history. That was the time where I proved to myself that I had really become an inspirational leader. Nothing tests your leadership like a crisis.