Elinvar Leading CEO Search for Research Triangle Foundation

March 24, 2017 – Executive search firm Elinvar has been retained by the Research Triangle Foundation (RTP) to lead its search for a new chief executive officer. Liz Rooks, a longtime Research Triangle Foundation executive, is currently serving as interim CEO. She came out of retirement to take the job shortly after Bob Geolas left for unexplained reasons last September. Elinvar’s president and CEO, Patti Gillenwater, is heading the search along with strategic search partner Jim Ahlerand researcher Pattie Steigerwald.

In outlining the requirements for the position, the foundation board stressed the importance of hiring an executive who could help to implement its ‘master plan’ adopted in 2012. While no timetable for hiring a new CEO has been spelled out, the job announcement posted by Michael Pittman, vice president of marketing and communications, said that master plan calls for drastic changes and additions to the Park, with construction to break ground this fall. That likely makes this search an immediate mandate.

“Just as the original vision for the foundation was realized through commitment of a broad partnership of stakeholders, the new RTP master plan will require joint effort and resolve,” Mr. Pittman said. “Transformative change is needed to meet 21st century challenges.”


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He noted that the new CEO “will be charged with implementing the vision that has been created to enable the foundation to achieve its economic growth objectives now and in the future.” The CEO job is not for someone who wants to avoid the spotlight, he said.

Unquestionably, the incoming CEO will operate in a role of extreme high profile. The chosen leader will be responsible for strengthening and expanding strong alliances the organization has forged with key business, public, education and economic development leaders in the region, state, country and around the world.

“Because the foundation is transitioning from an entity that primarily sells land to largely a property development and management role, it is necessary that the incoming CEO has extensive knowledge and considerable experience in commercial land development, preferably on multiple fronts and over the full spectrum of planning, financing, construction and property management,” said Mr. Pittman.

Research Triangle Park is managed by the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina. It is home to some 200 companies that employee 50,000 people. The Foundation is focused on orchestrating industry, university and government collaborations to attract research, scientific and technology-based organizations and support the creation of quality jobs and opportunities.

Exceptional Leaders

Elinvar is an executive search and leadership development firm located in Raleigh, NC. It has been serving organizations in North Carolina for over 30 years and provides search services to foundations, non-profits, higher education institutions, professional associations, and closely held businesses located in the state as well as the Southeast.

Ms. Gillenwater, Elinvar’s leader since 1995, has built the firm around her belief that great results stem from effective leadership and great leadership happens when leaders are working in an environment that supports them. “It is with exceptional leaders at the helm that organizations are able to create value for all of their stakeholders,” she said.

Bringing this belief to Elinvar’s mission-driven clients brings optimal results for them and the people they serve, she added. According to clients, Ms. Gillenwater has an innate ability to quickly grasp the essence of critical organization issues and see a road to solutions that create desired results. She applies this talent to solving leadership challenges of both individual leaders and their mission-driven organizations.

With over 20 years of experience in executive search, leadership development and board service, her varied and broad experience has been focused on understanding all aspects of what is needed for an individual to succeed when joining a new organization and what an organization can achieve when exploring leadership changes.

Ms. Gillenwater recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the CEO search for Research Triangle Foundation and to explore some recent trends she’s seeing in leadership development and executive coaching.

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Patti, what type of leader is Research Triangle Foundation seeking? 

This incoming CEO must be a collaborative leader with effective relationship building skills and a genuine desire to serve a diverse group of constituents and work well with a strong board of accomplished executives.

What background and leadership characteristics is the company looking for? 

This position requires a leader with a broad range of experience, knowledge and relationships. Experience in real estate development, a strategic financially astute thinker and someone who has the ability to attract and retain great companies to the Research Triangle Foundation are all important attributes for success in this position. In addition, experience in building and leading outstanding teams, working with boards and collaborating with universities is also required. We expect to have the search committee interviewing the final slate of candidates in early June.

“The other trend we are seeing is that leaders with younger direct reports need to adjust their leadership style to be more effective in motivating this new generation of ‘knowledge workers.'”

Can you share some similar searches the firm has completed? 

In the past two years, we conducted searches for the CEOs of a non-profit and a foundation that also add significantly to the economic development of North Carolina. MCNC and NC Idea are both leading organizations that support our state.

Can you outline some recent trends you’ve seen in leadership development and executive coaching? 

Our work is often with very bright and accomplished technologists who have moved into leadership roles and are eager to add to their leadership abilities. Often, they have not had that development opportunity in the past and working with a professional coach has a huge impact on their ability to continue to progress in their career. The other trend we are seeing is that leaders with younger direct reports need to adjust their leadership style to be more effective in motivating this new generation of ‘knowledge workers.’

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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