Leadership Lens: How showing up helps Bader’s Frank Cumberbatch accomplish big things

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Frank Cumberbatch likes working on big things. The kind of things that seem unattainable to other people.

“In terms of style, I like to paint a picture, show people I’m leading where we’re heading and then inspire them to get there,” Cumberbatch, vice president of engagement at Bader Philanthropies, said on the latest episode of Leadership Lens on the BizTimes MKE Podcast.

Frank Cumberbatch
Frank Cumberbatch

Cumberbatch joined Marquette University president Michael Lovell and BizTimes Media managing editor Arthur Thomas to talk about leadership styles, community engagement and much more. Lovell and Cumberbatch have worked together in a number of areas, including founding SWIM (Scaling Wellness in Milwaukee), an initiative aimed at making Milwaukee the most trauma informed city in the country.

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Beyond his work with SWIM, Cumberbatch is working on a number of other topics, including affordable housing, improving Milwaukee’s Juneteenth celebration, creating more entrepreneurs of color and the development of The Opportunity Center, an $80 million community center that intends to be the most inclusive and accessible in the country.

In addition to painting an inspiration vision, Cumberbatch said his leadership approach also incorporates a democratic element. He wants those involved to be able to put forward their ideas and feel heard, even if the decision ultimately has to come down to one person.

“I want everybody to feel they have ownership in this thing we are doing, whatever that may be, and in that way, we minimize those who are pulling in the opposite direction,” he said.

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Lovell and Cumberbatch also discussed some of SWIM’s work, including challenges in building trust with communities the organization aims to help.

“There’s a historical nature to the lack of trust in Milwaukee and until we, as a city, can learn to trust and work together, we’re not going to reach our potential, but the important thing, as Frank knows, is you just have to keep showing up,” Lovell said.

Both building trust and showing up are keys to making progress on issues like generational trauma, Cumberbatch said.

“We have great leaders in this town,” he said. “But we have to get out of our chairs and go into the community and try your best to be as empathetic as you can about the journeys that these folks are traveling.”

For someone with engagement in his title, building relationships with individuals and organizations is at the heart of Cumberbatch’s work. He pointed to a few keys for successful relationship building.

“Number one, showing up,” Cumberbatch said. “Showing up authentically, not with an agenda, not to fulfill some goal in my title, just showing up to be with people. Secondly, treating people like people. Listening to them. Being there for them. No judgments, no assumptions. And third, do not come with the solution, come in a genuine authentic way to work together to solve the problem on the table.”

Hear more from the conversation in the full podcast episode embedded above.

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