Aaron B. Dail: Public Innovator Pick
This edition of The Harwood Institute’s newsletter features Aaron B. Dail, President & CEO of The Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce in Murray, Ky. Dail was previously executive director of United Way of Murray-Calloway County from Dec. 2011-Aug. 2013, where he enhanced his natural leadership skills by participating in The Harwood Institute’s Public Innovators Lab in 2011 in Alexandria, Va. The training helped guide Dail’s focus on nonprofit leadership and participation in numerous community nonprofit initiatives. Dail began his career at Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity (SigEp) as a regional director, eventually becoming national director of expansion. The fraternity is committed to "Building Balanced Men," a program that provides a $5,000 undergraduate-funded scholarship for incoming students who live life of balance and demonstrate a sound mind/sound body approach to life.
Dail grew up in Kinston, N.C., a city in the eastern part of the state. He earned a B.S. in organizational communication in December 2005 and an M.B.A. in May 2009, both from Kentucky’s Murray State University. Dail also participated in Harvard Business School's Executive Education program in 2012 and holds a Nonprofit Management Certification from Duke University. He serves as an adjunct instructor in nonprofit leadership studies at Murray State and was the university’s 2013 Giving Back Visiting Scholar.
In the following Q&A, Dail discusses his passion for community engagement and how The Harwood Institute has helped advance his leadership skills.
The Harwood Institute: What made you want to pursue a career in community service?
Aaron Dail: I figured out as an undergraduate that I wanted to be involved in giving back to my community when I served as a Balanced Man Scholarship Director for SigEp. This program allowed me to give back to other college students in an innovative way. I knew after directing that program that I wanted any work I ever did in life to have an impact on someone’s life.
THI: Why did you want to head up The Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce?
AD: My sole reason for pursuing working for our Chamber was influenced by my passion for our community in Murray and my education at MSU’s College of Business. I wanted to make an impact on the community that has given me so much.
THI: What do you like best about your job as head of the Chamber?
AD: The opportunity for our organization to grow as a thought leader in both community and business is of the highest importance to me. My job is a great balance of assisting in leading our organization to advance the area’s economic prosperity by partnering with our members to provide representation, increase job opportunities, encourage community pride and improve the quality of life.
THI: How did the Harwood Lab impact your work?
AD: It greatly changed my thinking and passion toward the way I work. I noticed that I began to understand a concept I had read about - being ‘inner-directed’ and ‘others- focused.’ The training gave me an articulated ability to ask deeper questions and get after root causes of issues rather than symptoms.
THI: What changes have you made to the Chamber since becoming President & CEO?
AD: The biggest change I’ve made has been simply to ask Chamber members and our community more questions about their aspirations in business, community and life. It seems so simple, but I am consistently amazed by the answers I am given.
THI: What is the most important change you’d like to see happen in your community?
AD: Community collaboration and openness are key to any community’s success, especially Murray. Without it, we approach work in silos which does not create long- term, meaningful impact. Our ability to communicate with each other openly and honestly and about our community’s future is the biggest opportunity we have.
THI: What other goals would you like to achieve as head of the Chamber of Commerce?
AD: I’d like to see our organization grow its position as a thought leader. I want to be part of giving ideas energy, momentum to initiatives, and tools to organizations and individuals so they can make strategic decisions on future opportunities, whether in the next one, two or 10 years.
THI: What is one thing people outside of your community should know about Murray?
AD: We are friendly. You can see it in how we treat each other in all sorts of circumstances.