I’m working on my next Mississippi Business Journal column. It will be on the subject of community leadership programs. My experience with such programs is that there are four distinct stages as presented below. Most management texts say that when it comes to group formation that the stages are forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning, so my list is a slight variation of that theme.
Most community leadership programs are managed by a local chamber of commerce or similar organization. The basic goals are to identify emerging leaders in the community, bring them together as a group, present issues that the community needs to address and then turn them loose with the skills and contacts necessary to make the community a better place. There are as many degrees of success of such goals as there are leadership programs.
Stage One – Bonding, aka teambuilding, aka forming. In this stage the leadership class is taken on a retreat and engaged in teambuilding activities. Often there are personality tests given to illustrate and identify the various personalities in the class.
Stage Two – Learning. The class is presented with leadership skills and with information about the community and its issues.
Stage Three – Taking Action. The class, which had been subdivided into groups, selects a project to work on as a group. Usually, the project is related to some issue in the community.
Stage Four – Networking. In an ideal world this is the stage where an alumni association is formed and sustained. The alumni from all classes meet regularly and deal with community issues. This rarely happens because alumni tend to get back to their busy jobs and network only with other alumni who share their opinions, values and beliefs. Nevertheless, there are examples of leadership alumni programs around the country that stick together and become a true force for betterment in their communities.