Grow Wabash County leadership class graduates
By David Fenker | The Paper of Wabash County
After eight day-long courses, 26 up-and-coming Wabash County leaders are better prepared to lead in the workplace.
Continuing a decades-old program of the former Wabash County Chamber of Commerce, Grow Wabash County offered its first Wabash County Leadership Development course last November.
Grow Wabash County President and CEO Kieth Gillenwater said that before starting the class this year, the organization looked at past classes' feedback.
“We used the opportunity to go back and look at feedback from previous participants, and try to figure out, based upon the last few class's feedback, what can we do to make this program better, to be more responsive, because it had kind of stayed the same throughout that period of time,” Gillenwater said. “At that point, we realized there were some things we could do to make it more of a true leadership development program. We brought in a new facilitator … Jim Smith. Jim's a retired educator, retired superintendent, former principal here at Manchester High School, sat on the town council here in town.
“That was also important for me from the standpoint of, this is a countywide program. I wanted to bring in someone who wasn't necessarily a Wabash person.”
Smith described the intent of the course, as well as various sessions the students participated in.
“The goals of the program are to find up-and-coming young business leaders in the community, and have them have experiences that are going to increase their leadership skills in the workplace and in their social life and home,” he said, “and also to open them up to various locations and various pieces and parts of the Wabash County community.
“[Manchester University] provided eight hours of leadership training, and then we also had a government panel of local government folks, we had an education panel of all the three superintendents of the three public school corporations, as well as early learning and postsecondary learning.”
Additionally, the students heard from Manchester University President Dave McFadden, Community Foundation of Wabash County Executive Director Patty Grant, and county and municipal government officials. They also completed three service projects.
Gillenwater praised Smith for his work with the service projects, and said that Smith split students up based on leadership style and personality.
“They did three projects,” he said, “one that centered around the Access Youth Center, one that centered around the Ninth Grade Career Fair, and one that” helped nonprofits market themselves better and become more involved in the community. Students each completed at least 25 hours' worth of work for the projects.
“The other thing that we did then, that was, I think, really a big change for this program, was that we engaged Manchester University as well with their leadership development that they do corporately, for large clients,” Gillenwater said. “We engaged them to really bulk up our leadership development portion. A lot of the leadership development is also a tour of getting to know who's who in the county, and different issues that are facing our county.”
Wabash Park Superintendent Adam Hall, one of the 26 students in this year's course, said that participants learned about working with others – and more about themselves as well.
“We took tests to learn what our skills are, what our weakness are, what our strengths are,” he said, “and then, how does that relate to the opposite person that you've got to work with. So, if you're an introvert and you've got to work with an extrovert, how can you guys work together?
“So, we learned a lot about ourselves and other people around us.”
The skills Hall learned in the class directly impact his work with the City of Wabash.
“Being the director, I interact with a lot of people all the time, especially in the summer because everybody wants to the park and either use a pavilion, or have an event, or needs something, or wants something,” he said. “So, we have those interactions, and I can better gauge myself in how to speak to people. Some people like direct, forward answers, some people want better explanations; you kind of learn to gauge what you're going to say or how you're going to say it to different people.”
Highlights of the class, he said, included the variety of presenters and panels.
“We had some really interesting professors, teachers, mentors that came in and were teaching different things about the class,” he said. “Some people were very energetic and just made them want to listen.”