Thursday, February 9, 2012

Building Community Leadership Capacity

Once again the Chamber season for leadership development is complete for the 2010-2011. LDW has now completed 26 classes since its inception. The Executive Board and staff of the Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce congratulate this year’s graduates. Year after year, volunteer leaders and session chairs work magic in keeping LDW sessions exciting and informative. LDW would not be possible or successful without key, committed, class leaders. Our sincere gratitude is extended to Steve Pound, Program Chair, and Howard Elder, Program President, for their leadership and guidance of this year’s class.

The goal of the Leadership Dalton-Whitfield program is to develop informed and confident leaders by exposing participants to community resources, opportunities and issues. Each year, participants gain knowledge of our community through sessions that concentrate on local quality of life, education, economics, local government, the judicial system, state government, medical services, cultural diversity, volunteerism, and leadership in general. For the last two years, the class has invited a Rotary exchange student (the Georgia Rotary Student Program) to join them for their day at the capitol learning about State Government.

The program is structured such that teamwork and cooperation play a fundamental role in the successful completion of the program. The ideas stimulated by common experiences create synergy that helps to mold the future of Greater Dalton while also allowing participants the opportunity to forge key relationships with other community leaders.

Class members are chosen by a Leadership Advisory Committee based on their interest in the community and a sincere commitment to making Greater Dalton a better place to live and work. The Committee selects participants that reflect the occupational and demographic diversity of the community. Class members acquire specific leadership skills, gain a broad base exposure to the community, form relationships with peers in other fields, and learn how networking can benefit both professional and volunteer activities.

Given the importance of the Archway Visioning effort, Melissa Lu (our Community Archway Professional) was a part of most sessions and frequently provided an update on the Archway Initiatives. In addition to exposing our community’s leadership participants to the visioning efforts, Melissa also heard which issues were on the minds of this core constituency.

After 26 years, LDW boasts 905 graduates. The members of this year’s class will have the opportunity to join the Alumni Association which was created to keep its members connected with local events and issues. Alumni also stay connected through networking opportunities with their peers in the Greater Dalton business community.

On May 3rd, 27 young up-and-comers completed the Chamber’s introductory leadership program - the Emerging Leaders Institute. This program is a first step to identifying young leaders and preparing them for a lifetime of community leadership. ELI young professionals completed training in leadership skills such as understanding leadership, group dynamics, managing conflict, effective communication, valuing community diversity, building communities through collaboration and leading community change. These new leaders are energetic and enthusiastic about learning more about the community and how they can become involved.

This year’s ELI class collaborated with the United Way team in utilizing their “Board Walk” program for their last session. “Board Walk” is a non-profit board service training program. Several of the ELI graduates have applied and been invited to participate in next year’s LDW program. This year’s ELI class was co-led by our outstanding volunteer leaders - Dan Clark and Angela Gordy. LDW Alumni also serve as facilitators and presenters.

Successful communities must have committed and talented leaders. Through LDW and ELI, the Dalton-Whitfield Chamber is proud to play a small role in building leadership capacity in the Greater Dalton community.

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