Daily, Darryl Shelton integrates his passions for learning, teaching, and connecting to help carry forward the mission at Christian Schools International (CSI). The organization is devoted to providing programs and services to like-minded schools across the country and, through his work for it as chief operating officer (COO), Shelton has also had the opportunity to empower others to become leaders and reach goals of their own.
Recently, he sat down with Profile to discuss how he developed his leadership philosophies and how he’s passing them along to others through CSI, Davenport University’s Institute for Professional Excellence (IPEx), and more.
Path to Leadership
Early in Shelton’s career, he stood as the executive director of both high school recruitment and alumni relations for Davenport University. Because education always has been of great importance to him, he cherished opportunities to work directly with students to help point them toward their future successes.
Interestingly enough, he eventually realized he could transfer those skills to future leaders in education and business. He worked to support “middle leaders”—people who were on their way to moving up the ranks but had not yet taken the next step—to provide them with his expertise. He channeled his proficiency in critical thinking and empathy to direct individuals to pursue their upward journeys.
Shelton’s mission today is to equip his mentees with the tools they need to properly guide their teams and themselves to success, while understanding how change affects the people they work with. He recognizes the value of individuality and encourages mentees to channel it to accomplish their foreseeable goals.
“People must be smart-goal oriented,” he says. “In other words, they must create targeted, non-ambiguous, reachable, timely goals. These are the things that motivate me and motivate others because they know what they are working toward and can see the end of the road.”
Leadership at CSI
When Shelton transferred into his current position as COO for CSI, he took responsibility for three of the four main services at the company: accreditation, leadership development, and curriculum and instruction. As he oversees these operations, he tackles problems by using a keen sense of observation.
He firmly believes that learning a definition for a problem is the most important step to finding an answer. He largely accredits his approach to Albert Einstein’s mantra: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”
Shelton keeps this strategy in mind when he calls on his team to solve problems, as well. “I want my team to observe and assess the components of a problem,” he says. “Then, from there, we can use best-practice decisions to move forward.”
When presented with a new issue, Shelton emphasizes that everyone should be involved in the problem-solving process. He encourages his team to sit down together to brainstorm and make decisions. While maintaining a sense of independence among his team members, he continually supports their choices and remains a source of empowerment along the way.
Leadership at IPEx
In addition to his professional career at CSI, Shelton devotes time to leadership and coaching at Davenport University’s IPEx. He calls IPEx a “game changer that helped him become a servant leader,” and through it, he has been able to help both inexperienced and experienced leaders in all walks of life. His mentorship efforts there have ignited his passion to guide future leaders to success.
At IPEx, Shelton channels his twenty-five years of professional experience to empathize with the experiences of each individual he works with, and he shows them how to become lucrative leaders. He uses his and their backgrounds to “paint a picture to help future business leaders understand why they are who they are and why they do what they do,” he says. “By the end of the training, these amazing future leaders are able to realize the kinds of goals that will help them rise to the occasion and achieve prosperity.”
Shelton adds that his mentorship work inspires him to continually flourish in his own career, as well. “When I facilitate these sessions, I ask myself, ‘What can I apply to my job?’” he says. “I am passionate about constantly growing in my career, so I take advantage of any professional leadership development training, networking event, and educational reading I can. I want to model behaviors that I expect from my mentees.”
Shelton’s Leadership Future
As Shelton continues to search for new ways to enrich his personal and work life, he hopes to transfer the same mentality to his employees and students. “Thriving in life means putting yourself in an uncomfortable spot,” he says. “Be a little risky or take on something you’re not sure you can do.” He encourages his mentees to step outside their comfort zone, think outside the box, and challenge themselves to grow.
He plans to always transfer these passions into his work—and hopefully even extend them beyond the realm of each organization. In the future, Shelton hopes to expand IPEx nationally so that aspiring leaders all over the country can have access to it as a resource. He wants to take advantage of the opportunities he was given throughout his career and allow others to have similar experiences to leverage their passions.
To Shelton, leading with integrity and passion is the ultimate form of success—and he has achieved it.