Basil Lyberg, Chief Executive Officer of The Ability Experience

After graduation, he joined The Ability Experience staff in a variety of roles including director of team services, director of team events and director of development. After nine years with The Ability Experience, he left to lead 24 Hours of Booty—an organization that gets communities active in the fight against cancer. In six years with 24 Hours of Booty, he lead the expansion efforts into four cities raising $2.5 million annually for the fight against cancer.
Basil lives in Charlotte, N.C., with his wife Michelle and their two children Emma and Luke. He is a member of Leadership Charlotte and serves on the board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

If you had the opportunity to start your collegiate career over again from scratch, is there anything you’d do differently? If so, why?
The easy answer is I would have gotten a business or accounting degree versus family studies. I wouldn’t change much else because I owe much of what I learned in college to a lot of mistakes. My grades were up and down early in school. I had a brother, Mike Kerr, Eta Epsilon (Maryland), who called me out for getting bad grades when we were on the Journey of Hope. This was a big turning point for me. I got serious about school and had four straight semesters on the Dean’s List, raising my GPA by a point. Mike was a big part of this in that he followed up the first week of classes and kept checking in that year.

You are six months into your return to The Ability Experience. Why did you come back and what have you enjoyed the most about being back?Ultimately, I made the decision to come back because I have had an incredible experience with the fraternity and The Ability Experience. I wanted to continue this work and, to steal Jeff Wahlen’s phrase, “ensure that every member has an Ability Experience ‘experience.’” As far as what I have enjoyed most, I would say everything. I am just on fire with where this organization can go and how we can ensure that the men that go through our chapters have experiences that impact the lives of people with disabilities and inspire them to continue to do really good things in their community for decades to come. There is a real power in what we can do for our community.

You have provided leadership for Pi Kappa Phi as an undergraduate, staff member and alumni volunteer. How has the concept of leadership changed for you over the years?
Each position I have taken on in different organizations has required me to provide different types of leadership. I believe it is dangerous to put yourself in a box as a certain type of leader. We each have our own tendencies and behaviors we gravitate toward. Right now, I have roles that might not be the most comfortable, but are critical in serving the mission of the organization. To answer your question a little more directly, I would say to be kind, be honest and make an impact. Ultimately, I am accountable for getting results and setting our team up for success.

What are some of the most important pieces of advice you’ve received in your life?
One that I am sure my coworkers hear a lot from me is, “Communication is what the listener does.” I’ve learned this as my responsibilities increase with the complexities of managing a team. I wish I would have learned this lesson earlier. It would have saved me a lot of time and energy. With the pace of communication today, it is easy to shoot a barrage of messages and then if signals get crossed—to blame the person receiving the message. It is much easier to say—this guy just doesn’t get it. If you just take a second to put yourself in their shoes and think of their perspective, communication will move faster. Go slow to go fast.

What have been two or three of your most meaningful Pi Kappa Phi experiences?
Hands down, my Journey of Hope experience. It was just a game changer in that I was able to realize my own abilities as a leader. I saw how great our country is and what happens when a group of people come together under the banner of service. I also had a fantastic chapter experience. We did some pretty cool things on campus to really go from the new guys on campus to one of the top chapters. I hate being so far away from the guys but each March a group of us get together to watch the NCAA tourney and it is just the best time.

What advice would you give to an undergraduate member getting ready for their first job?
Go out there and get your butt kicked and learn as much as you can. You are leaving school at an incredible time where there is so much information and the business landscape moves so fast. It is easy to get caught up in looking ahead to what is next. If you take a job where you are put in tough situations and you can gain a wide range of experience, you are going to be a step ahead of the next guy. If you create value, the next steps will take care of themselves in your career. I was fortunate to leave school and take a position with the fraternity where I had a ton of responsibility early in my career. I didn’t know it at the time because the work was so fun, but it set me up well to handle more responsibility as I progressed.