Karen D. Johnson, Ph.D.

Q: What most notably stands out about your leadership style or what is an example of leadership success you can share with our readers?

We have an abundance of amazing nonprofits in Phoenix doing great work. Just imagine what we can do if we can find new ways to collaborate? My goal has been to meet with as many nonprofit leaders as I can and to strategize how we can work together more effectively. How can we make sure every young person is matched with the program that best meets their needs? How can we foster an “abundance mindset” when it comes to sharing and building on all the resources of this community? How can we support each other and ensure that we are all successful? The belief in collaboration is core to my leadership approach. I also believe that having a great sense of humor is a critical leadership skill. 

What impact has COVID-19 or the disruptions of the past 18 months had on you as a leader?

The most important lesson of the pandemic is that our people got the work done whether in the office or at home. The challenges we all faced never shook the commitment of our teams to the mission. We all found our inner core of creativity and focus that kept our organizations moving forward. We built trust in our work and in each other. The challenge now is to create an environment where people can still enjoy the flexibility and lifestyle benefits of working from home while meeting the needs of our clients and youth in person at the office. The future is in building a strong organizational culture that transcends physical location. We have to find ways to strengthen relationships and maintain trust while working in the office and at home. 

What do you feel we can be doing as a business community to empower economic growth here?

The current job market challenges are a reminder that we have to build workforce from the bottom up. We must ensure that every young person has the opportunity to achieve in education and in employment. They are all our future employees. I would love for every company to “adopt” a youth-serving nonprofit and work closely with them to develop workforce opportunities that provide mutual benefit. Young people want to learn about all the opportunities available to them as careers and employers need to cultivate their future workers. This is a great opportunity to build partnerships that will have a long-term positive impact on our economic growth. 

What is new and notable for your company’s near future that will impact our economy?

We are excited to launch the new brand and name for our youth program: Level Up by New Pathways for Youth. We know this name will better communicate to teens how our program can help them gain new skills that will propel them toward a brighter future. We hope it will excite more volunteers to join us as mentors as well. Our curriculum helps our youth level up their relationships, their communication, their skills, and their goals. The bonus is that our program has the same positive impact on our mentors. New Pathways is poised to grow our program to serve even more youth in our community.

Name of Leader: Karen D. Johnson, Ph.D.
Position of Leader: President & CEO
Organization Name: New Pathways for Youth
No. of Years with Organization: 1
Main Local Office Address: 901 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix, AZ 85034
Phone: (602) 422-9261
Website: npfy.org
Number of offices in Greater Phoenix: 1
Year Established Locally: 1989
City Nationally Headquartered: Phoenix


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