June 16, 2013

Phyllis Stephens: Building community leadership capacity

Once again the chamber season for leadership development is complete for 2012-13.

Leadership Dalton-Whitfield (LDW) has now completed 28 classes since its inception. The Executive Board and staff of the Greater Dalton 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 David Wilkerson (Shaw Industries), program chair, and Pat Gordon, 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, volunteerism and leadership in general.  

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.  

After 28 years, Leadership Dalton-Whitfield boasts 977 graduates. The members of this year’s class completed their program on May 9 and 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 8, 19 young leaders completed the chamber’s introductory leadership program — the Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI). 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, effective communication, group problem solving and decision making, group dynamics, conducting successful meetings, managing conflict, valuing community diversity and building communities through collaboration. These new leaders are energetic and enthusiastic about learning more about the community and how they can become involved. The Emerging Leaders Institute began in 2008 and now has 125 graduates.

For the past three years, the Emerging Leaders Institute collaborated with the United Way team in utilizing their “Board Walk” program for their last session. Board Walk is a nonprofit 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, Katie O’Gwin (Katherine O’Gwin, P.C.) and Daryl Cole (Hamilton Health Care System). Alumni from both Leadership Dalton-Whitfield and the Emerging Leaders Institute also serve as facilitators and presenters.

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

Phyllis Stephens is senior vice president of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce.


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