Sunday, January 31, 2010

Leadership as a course

Last night we were out at the 7th annual Fire and Ice Gala for Leadership Waterloo Region.  The event is always one of the top events we attend and we look forward to going every year.  Earlier this year I had a discussion with two fellow graduates of the program and we talked about what we thought of LWR.  The comments were pretty consistent:

"The course didn't provide leadership development, it just exposed me to areas of the community I was alread familiar with"

"I was looking for ways to become a better leader, and it didn't give me that"

"The network was the true value of LWR, not really the courses"

Not the most positive comments regarding a program that I value personally and as a member of Waterloo region.  I hold this program near and dear to my heart for a number of reasons, but mostly because it has so much potential to take younger people and make them community leaders.  I agree with some of the comments above, as the course did not always develop leadership skills explicitely, but I think that the people who were making those comments forgot a few of the real leadership development skills that were developed.  For example, we had a great speaker come in and talk about Emotional Intelligence.  If a leader can understand, develop, and exploit the teachings of EI, then they can become a better leader in their business, at home, and in the community.  Another area which great leaders are able to is to understand their roles in different situations.  Sometimes it's important to mobilize, direct, and lead with a strong voice at the front of the line.  Sometimes it is equally important to lead quietly from the back of the line.  There were many chances at LWR to learn that skillset, although not always taught explicitly. 

So, does Leadership Waterloo Region do a great job in developing leaders?  I think they do an OK job, but not a great job.  LWR needs to better develop a value proposition to their candidates to draw the right people into the program.  It also needs to do a better job explaining what candidates will get out of the program.  You will get leadership development opportunities, but you are also going to have times where you will simply learn about your community and areas that need help.  Maybe that particular area doesn't motivate you, but it might inspire 5 others in the class to volunteer or lead in a new area.

My recommendations:

1.  Is to be much clearer on expectations to candidates on what they will get out of their experience.

2. Spend more time developing and improving leadership characteristics that candidates can apply at their day jobs

3. Continue to grow the power of the alumni. 

The last point is difficult to do but LWR and their alumni committee needs to keep trying.  For example, we were the only people there from the class of 2005.  Too bad.

For those that are interested in learning more about your community and developing leadership skills, consider looking into Leadership Waterloo Region (   If you set your expectations appropriately, and actively participate in the program, you will get tremendous value out of the experience.

Thanks for reading.


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