I received a refresher course in leadership the other day that I thought I would share. Last Friday, I met with some of the members of the 2014 class of Leadership Johns Creek, as they cut the ribbon on their civic project.
As part of their crash course in civics and civic duty – if you want to call eight months a crash course – Team No Limits in Johns Creek cut the ribbon on their civic project. That in itself would have been a worthy expenditure of one’s time and effort, but that was not even half of what the program is about.
I am an alumnus of the Leadership North Fulton class of 1997. Of course there was no city of Johns Creek then, and precious little thought of one then. But the idea behind the Leadership program is the same whether it is has North Fulton or Johns Creek in the name of the organization.
The philosophy is simple. While some leaders are born, it is not wise to wait around for the blessed event to happen. The better path is to work to create them, and create them right here in our own pea patch.
It takes quite a commitment from those who apply. It begins with a retreat – usually in August – and continues with monthly meetings and field trips through May that introduce class members to the local government and other institutions that make up the fabric of the community.
I don’t mean they just point out where the buildings are. Leadership programs show how gears mesh so that police and fire responses are coordinated with well-trained personnel behind them.
You meet elected officials as well as city department heads so that you learn not only what they do, but things they can’t do.
In my year, our Leadership class met with nonprofit groups, took a field trip to the Fulton County Jail – one place you do not want to be as anything other than a visitor – and of course met with local government officials.
The other thing they do is split up the 30-odd class into three or four teams at the opening retreat, a weekend nearby where they do teambuilding exercises. This is important because you will be working with that team for the next eight months on your civic project.
What is that, you ask? It is always different because it is always the decision of the team. You must agree on an idea, figure out a strategy to make it happen and then you have to rely on each other to make it happen.
It all sounds quite daunting at first, especially when you see some of the ambitious things that have been accomplished by earlier classes. But you know what? Every team comes up with a plan for a worthy project and almost always, they are completed successfully.
But as worthwhile as they are, these projects are not the goal of the program. Instead, they are the means of achieving success. Now, no organization bats a thousand, but the Leadership classes I have seen come very close.
You have to remember Leadership North Fulton and Leadership Johns Creek are about creating leaders. Their mission is to develop, energize and activate community leaders. What better way to do that than to create a situation in which individuals must decide on a common purpose and organize themselves using their own skills to give the group its best chance to succeed in planning and achieving a goal in a relatively short time span?
Trust me, that’s a pretty good way find out a lot about yourself and the exercise of leadership. You quickly find out there is always more than one leader in a group. And the biggest lesson may be in learning how a group harnesses its energies to a common purpose.
There are yet more levels on which the program touches. Alumni make some true personal and professional relationships that live on long after your time in Leadership class. As you rise in your career – and they in theirs – these relationships will earn dividends time and again in ways you never imagined. At the end of your eight months or so, you won’t be networking with these classmates. They will be your network. They will be resources in areas where you have no expertise or knowledge upon whom you can count for the straight dope.
Most of all, you will have learned you have hidden talents you did not know you possessed, or how to turn those talents in directions you never thought of before.
If you are at all intrigued to know more, contact your local chamber of commerce. Your community needs you.