Spotlight On Our Honoree: Diane Tipton ('98)
September 19, 2022
This year, LGW is proud to honor Diane Tipton ('98), CEO and President of Self Storage Zone, with the 2022 LGW Leader of the Years award. Her commitment to building the communities of today, and the leaders of tomorrow, embodies our vision of impactful leadership and positive change in this region and beyond. For this spotlight feature, we connected with Diane to learn more about her leadership philosophy, her motivations and influences, and the organizations - and people - she holds close to her heart.
Do you have a leadership philosophy? What do you think makes an extraordinary leader?
I'm a leader who doesn't think about leadership, I just do. I don't read a lot about it or study the concept. One of the things that I've learned about being a leader is that you have to listen. You've got to bring everybody into the room and come up with the best solution for an issue. It’s not really a philosophy, it’s just what I try to do and honestly it’s hard sometimes to not just want to tell everyone what to do.
What I think makes an excellent leader comes from years of watching people and trying to be a good leader myself. In addition to listening, you have to be your authentic self and have the courage to be able to say what you think is the right answer for a particular situation, even if it’s not what the majority may think. Having the courage to lead with the conviction of your own ideas while considering others is something that makes an extraordinary leader.
Looking at your biography, there are two organizations that are important to you: Girl Scouts, and Jubilee Housing. What – or who – drew you to these organizations, and why are they important to you?
What got me into girl scouting was my father, believe it or not. He was a Boy Scout leader and I was just chomping at the bit to do what they did. My Girl Scout troop leaders made me understand how important scouting was. They were phenomenal and taught me that you can go anywhere and do anything. We hiked the Appalachian Trail. We didn’t just cook and do crafts, we did high adventure activities – canoeing, camping, etc.. It made me understand the value of teamwork, collaboration and female empowerment. I look at girl scouting as a way of empowering all girls to understand that they can be the absolute best person they can possibly be, and that will be different for every single girl. It provides the opportunity, the avenue, to create girls of courage, confidence, and character in their own way.
David Reznick got me into Jubilee Housing. He was a big mentor and someone I worked with for many years. I was already involved in some organizations, but they weren’t in my field of real estate. Jubilee is about the inequality of housing opportunities, and the ability to provide housing for people who are making well under the median income, the ability to lift them up, that appealed to me. And it still does.
You graduated from the Signature Program in 1998, and have been a member ever since. Do you have a particular memory that stands out from your time engaged with LGW?
My Signature Program year was just absolutely incredible. We had an amazing class of people, and I think about how we discomforted each other in not necessarily just a supportive way, but in a way that really pushed everyone outside of their comfort zone. It’s the beauty of what LGW does – it helps us see what other people’s lives are like as much as you can without walking in their shoes.
My most impactful personal experience was at a Member Dinner held by Leslie Milk (’97). I was sitting across from Jan Verhage (’96) and she introduced herself as the Director of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital (GSCNC). And that just started everything. We of course had a lot to talk about girl scouting, and I said I wanted to get involved in volunteering. I eventually got on the Nominating Committee, and then the board, and eventually I became President of the GSCNC Board, now on the GSUSA National board and it all came from that Member Dinner.
And do you have anyone that you personally would like to shout out as being important or influential to you in your journey?
I don't think this will come as any surprise to anybody, but Alex Orfinger (’98). We were in the same Signature Program Class – I think I told this story when I was introducing him when he was named Leader of the Years – during orientation we just looked at each other and were like, “what the heck have we gotten ourselves into here?” We have become really great friends since then. He’s been someone that I have been able to talk to about networking, about my professional business, and about every aspect of anything I do engaging with the nonprofit community. He’s close with my husband, and our kids, he even was the officiant at our daughter’s wedding. It’s a real 360 relationship for me and my family.
LGW Members reflect on Diane:
“Diane has been remarkable as a connector and contributor throughout the DC region. She cares deeply about making a difference for our region and involving others in the success of the region. She has been a great example of leveraging LGW to make great things happen. She was successful at convincing me personally to become involved with LGW – ‘trust me, you will benefit from LGW – and since then, many of my Partners have become graduates of LGW and are active in the region.” – David Kessler (’05)
“You can see Diane’s quiet power whenever she mentions Girls Scouts – and that’s in just about every conversation! Diane’s commitment to girls and women at all levels of leadership comes to life when she talks about Girls Scouts – she uses her voice and her platform on the national board to advocate and persuade. Yes, it is much more than about cookies. What Diane doesn’t often share is her national leadership in the self-storage industry – not only her extraordinary success but also the innovation and compassion she brings to this seemingly quiet corner of the real estate world.” – Alex Orfinger (’98)
“Diane and I became instant friends during the opening LGW retreat. She is an amazing woman who has been able to balance family, work and philanthropy adroitly. Diane has had a profound impact on Jubilee Housing, the Girl Scouts National Capital and countless other organizations. Congratulations on being named the 2022 Leader of the Years!” – Gene Sachs (’98)
“Diane has been a fearless advocate for girls and women in everything she does. Of special note is her championing Gold Award Girl Scouts, or as we like to refer to them as ‘Girls the World Needs’ as she herself and her daughter Della have earned the highest award in Girl Scouts: the Gold Award. The Girl Scout movement is better thanks to her commitment to building girls of courage, confidence and character, and especially compassion to make the world a better place.“ – Lidia Soto-Harmon (’07)
Join us for the Celebration of Leadership on October 12 as we honor Diane with the 2022 Leader of the Years award! Tickets are available - and going fast! - here.