Earlier this month, I attended a luncheon recognizing nine professionals in Flint and Genesee County. The cause for celebration was their recent completion of Leadership NOW, an introspective leadership development program offered through the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Genesee County.
At first glance, the cohort members seemed to have little in common. Some worked in the nonprofit sector. Others worked for area companies. Some had devoted their careers to working with youth. Others were passionate about supporting local entrepreneurs.
But as I listened to the graduates describe their experience over the past 12 months, I realized they all shared one very important quality: the desire to learn and improve.
So much goes into leading. You need to be able to create a vision, develop followership and effectively work with those followers to implement said vision. These are skills that may come naturally to some, but there’s no one person who does it all perfectly. To become an effective leader, continual self-reflection in a must. In the case of this year’s Leadership NOW cohort, for instance, each member participated in more than 100 hours of training and one-on-one coaching over the past year.
During this time, they focused on honing their personal leadership styles and learning how to develop effective partnerships. And then – because learning must be applied to have an impact – they were challenged to put their newfound knowledge into action.
Specifically, participants in Leadership NOW were called on to spearhead a sustainable, collaborative project. In response, they chose to work together to help bridge gaps in local youth programming. As they explained during the celebration luncheon, there are many organizations and individuals doing good work to support youth in Flint and Genesee County – imagine what great things could result from bringing everyone together for some powerful conversation.
To bring that idea to fruition, earlier this year, the cohort members began compiling survey data identifying some of the different challenges faced by local youth organizations. Those findings will be shared Jan. 18 during “Challenge by Choice,” a community event that will encourage attendees representing youth organizations to build relationships, identify resources and find ways to collaborate with each other.
In implementing “Challenge by Choice,” the cohort members had to pull from many of the lessons they learned through Leadership NOW. They left their egos behind in favor of focusing on the needs of those being served. They understood their roles would change over the course of the project. And they knew that regular meetings and open lines of communication were key to the success of their initiative.
While this project represents the culmination of their Leadership NOW experience, it is not the end of this cohort’s leadership journey. After all, leaders are learners, and there’s always room to grow.
To learn more about the upcoming “Challenge by Choice” event, visit flintandgenesee.org.
DeAndra Larkin is group vice president of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.