How great would it be if leaders would pick up the phone, call each other, and work together on critical issues facing their communities?
This would certainly make our cities, states and nation a lot better at solving problems and improving the lives of countless people, right?
Leadership organizations like Leadership Palm Beach County are designed to do just that: bring people together, develop strong networks and address challenges.
In my last few blog posts, I wrote about the ideas of a sense of community, building social capital, and learning organizations that form from local leadership development organizations like LPBC. All of these ideas are important aspects of leadership and enable participants to have life changing experiences. Many of these experiences stem from the bonding that takes place throughout the year-long leadership program.
Most county and statewide leadership programs begin with an overnight retreat that includes team building activities, getting to know your classmates, and lots of fun. By the end of the retreat, the nerves and butterflies that come with starting something new have dissipated, and strangers or acquaintances become friends and family.
Critical to the process of empowering people through leadership programs is the ability of organizers to create an atmosphere of empowerment where trust, positive self-image, positive expectations, and effective interaction with others can be developed and strengthened.
Through educational materials, leadership experiences, and group discussion, trust begins to form between classmates and alumni. The trust, respect, and bonding that stems from participating in a unique shared experience like Leadership Palm Beach County builds partnerships and opportunities to collaborate that has a direct effect on community change.
Often I hear from alumni that they are able to pick up the phone and contact a member of another class to get answers or clarification on an issue and get advice even though the individual had never met the person on the other end of the phone. But because of the shared experience of LPBC, alumni feel a connection to each other. The bond that comes from participating in a local leadership program enables participants to develop respect and trust through open dialogue where even those on different sides of an issue can work together to bring positive change to a community.
In a study I did a few years ago on how local leadership development programs empower and motivate individuals to run for office, one study participant said: “It’s easier to pick up the phone and call somebody from your class and say, hey, I need your blunt opinion…and since you have a relationship built on trust you can receive blunt answers.” Another study participant who ran for office shared a similar experience: “The bonding experience from my class enabled me to have resources in terms of fundraising and people that vote.”
So what does all of this mean? The camaraderie among classmates stems from the program format and design that forms a unique bond. This bond enables communities to change for the common good because the leaders involved have shared an experience focused on learning, encouragement, and community awareness.
Finally, LPBC has become a program that empowers learners by incorporating a spirit of ownership, responsibility, teamwork, and trust through examining different issues and challenges to foster change for the common good, promote a civil society, and encouraging continuous growth of participants.
And yes, the same approach works well in solving challenges facing our cities, states and nation -- if only more leaders were willing to pick up the phone and call each other.
Courtney Curatolo, PhD is the Chief Executive Officer of Leadership Palm Beach County.