Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Community Leadership


Tomorrow sees the end of the 2010/11 Leadership Twin Cities program, and with it ends my term as co-chair. What began nine months ago at a wooded retreat in Monticello, and continued one day each month, culminates in Vision Day at the Wellstone Center in St. Paul.

Leadership Twin Cities’ focus is to inform and inspire future leaders about critical issues facing the community; it in turn challenges them to make a difference through personal commitment.

Going through the program again (I was a participant 2 years ago) has been brilliant and has enabled me to see things through a different lens. What I particularly like about Leadership Twin Cities is that it prompts questions but does not provide answers; finding answers is up to each individual.

At Vision Day, one of the speakers will challenge the class of fifty to find their “community calling.” And they will certainly have some great experiences from which to select — be it a police ride-along, a theater tour, a visit to a jail, a tour of the cities, a day spent at a High School, or a particularly inspiring speaker from any of the nine program days.

My co-chair Becky and I have encouraged the class to recognize common themes linking the days. This time around I’ve been aware of how money—or the lack thereof—has affected everything from the number of firefighters employed to the funding non-profit organizations receive.

Consider: Is it more important to fund libraries or the arts? Is it more prudent to have safe streets or places for homeless people to spend the night? Is the aesthetic beauty of the cities more important than efficient, well-funded hospitals? These are just some of the issues the class can reflect on.

Another great aspect of the program is the relationships you form with each other, and I suspect that many among this year's class will be in touch with each other for years to come.

If community involvement is your calling I encourage you to get involved - join a board, or find a place to volunteer that matches your passion. It is commitment from people like you and me that will make the difference between success and failure. Leadership Twin Cities lets you decide just how deep into an issue you want to get.

As a parting gesture, Becky and I plan to give the class refrigerator magnets with a quote from Winston Churchill on them that reads “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Perhaps making a difference matters by confronting the prospect that it doesn't; and putting a smile on someone's face may just serve to put a smile on your own.

Two class members were even able to imagine a whole new career for themselves after finding inspiration through the program. One joined a non-profit after years working in the corporate world; another left her job and started her own interior design business.

My own position was recently eliminated and, like the two class members mentioned above, I believe that now is the time to make a change, to imagine a whole new career for myself as well!