Workshops aim to support municipal leaders
Newport, RI: Twenty public leaders from across Rhode Island gathered October 18-19, 2013, at Salve Regina University’s Pell Center for the first segment of Leadership Matters, a professional development program for municipal and social-sector leaders.
“Leadership Matters goes to the heart of the mission of the Pell Center,” said Dr. Jim Ludes, the center’s executive director. “We are ever mindful of Senator Pell’s legacy of service to the people of Rhode Island,” he continued. “We believe Leadership Matters honors that legacy by contributing to the important work done by public leaders in Rhode Island today.”
The first cohort on campus last week included municipal teams from Newport, Middletown and Pawtucket. RI legislators from both the house and the senate, and academic leaders from Salve Regina University. Each team consists of a “steward” and three additional team members.
“The team concept is important to the design of the program,” said Ludes. “We asked the steward in each community or organization to pick the team they wanted to bring for this training that would best address their unique local priorities.”
Leadership Matters is a multi-phased program. In the first phase participants attend eight classroom training days over five months, scheduled on Fridays and Saturdays. The courses cover facilitative leadership practices; system thinking; negotiation; and aligning means and ends for optimal performance outcomes.
“It’s a practitioner’s curriculum,” said Georgianna Bishop, the President of the Public Sector Consortium of Cambridge, MA, who partnered with the Pell Center to develop Leadership Matters. “I’ve spent a career working with public leaders and I know that taking time to develop new skills can be very tough for people who are often the busiest people in the state,” she said. “They can use when they get back to the office on Monday morning. And those that do will get the most from the sessions.”
“What particularly appealed to me about this program is that it’s geared for people who are responsible for putting leadership skills into practical use every day,” said Mayor Donald R. Grebien of Pawtucket, RI. “I am already finding it to be a very valuable program for me as well as for key members of my staff.”
In the second phase of the program, municipalities will undertake an innovation project of their own design. “Our intention,” said Ludes, “is to link external coaches and mentors to the communities while they take on these projects. We’re still working with foundations to secure the funding for that phase,” he cautioned, “but we want participants to benefit from the experience of others who have succeeded in similar challenges.”
Finally, according to Ludes, the Pell Center will host a lessons learned conference in the early autumn of 2014. The purpose of this final phase is to bring communities together again to brief each other on their innovation projects, where they succeeded and where—if appropriate—they came up short.
“The last phase is really important,” said Ludes. “We want to create a culture of collaboration and lesson-sharing across the state between; the towns, the legislature, non profits and academic institutions. “ “I believe it can pay real dividends for the state.” He continued, “Rhode Island has long benefited from tremendous leadership—really dating back to its founding three and a half centuries ago. It’s no different today. We’ve seen in these sessions the tremendous talent that lies in Rhode Island’s municipalities and we are delighted to be working with them.”